Congressman Grijalva Sends Another Letter to DHS: Stop Detaining Immigrant Mothers, Children

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Migrant women and children in a detention facility in McAllen, Texas. - PHOTO: HECTOR SILVA, CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION
  • Photo: Hector Silva, Customs and Border Protection
  • Migrant women and children in a detention facility in McAllen, Texas.

More than 100 Democratic congressmen and women, including U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, told Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson they are deeply concerned with the department's trend to detain undocumented mothers and children.

The group sent Johnson a letter, saying these jail-like facilities are "troublesome," with "conditions of confinement, issues of due process and serious developmental and medical concerns of those being detained. DHS has not fully grasped the serious harm being inflicted upon mothers and children in custody," the letter says. 

On May 12, Grijalva and other colleagues also reached out to Johnson, demanding he ensure Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as other DHS sub-agencies, follow through with their apprehension and deportation priority guidelines. They pointed out that ICE is still detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants who are not felons and who do not pose a threat to this country. 

A statement from Grijalva:
“It is unconscionable to think that right now, hundreds of mothers and children are being denied their liberty and due process in jail-like detention centers in our own backyard. Most of these detainees are asylum seekers fleeing terrible violence in their home countries. They arrive at our borders seeking safety and [protection, and instead face new threats from terrible conditions, developmental and medical concerns from detainment, and a complete lack of due process. It’s time for DHS to recognize our nation’s commitment to protecting public safety and the rule cannot come at the expense of our commitment to refugee families.”
Check out portions of the letter down there, and read the rest here:
The recent announcement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on family detention does not acknowledge that even detention for a brief period of time, especially in a secure setting, is detrimental to child development. 

We are particularly troubled by the current practice of family detention because the detained population is largely comprised of refugees fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries. We have heard horrific stories of sexual assault, intense physical violence, kidnapping, and sex trafficking. These stories come not only from adult mothers, but also from young children who have been victims of such abuse. Detaining children who have already been victims of abuse exacerbates past trauma and raises unique and serious problems. 

DHS has repeatedly used deterrence as a justification for the existence of family detention, but this theory has not been substantiated with compelling evidence. Moreover, a federal court in the District of Columbia rejected this argument and found that DHS cannot detain asylum seeking mothers and children from Central America for the purpose of deterring other migrants
from entering the country.

We agree and believe that the hypothetical recurrence of a future refugee flow does not justify the very real harm being inflicted upon mothers and children in a secure setting.

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