ABA Journal by Lorelei Laird
At an ABA Annual Meeting panel on Friday, speakers had strong criticisms of the federal government’s detention policies for immigrant mothers with children.
“The government’s family detention policies of widespread detention of families and secure lockdown facilities are just incompatible with basic principles of justice and liberty,” said Denise Gilman, a professor at the University of Texas Law School and director of the school’s immigration law clinic.
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Gilman, a member of the [C]ommission on Immigration] and a primary author of the report, has been working directly with detained women and children in her role at the law clinic. Because of the explosion of publicity surrounding the so-called surge of unaccompanied minors last summer, Gilman said, federal authorities switched from a policy of releasing families with small children, pending hearings, to a policy of detaining every one. The government originally said this was intended to deter further immigrants by showing they’d be locked up on arrival; and while it has changed its policy, she said, there’s no sign that expansion of detention has stopped.
Gilman said the facilities are prisonlike, with locked facilities and X-ray machines at the doors. Both Texas facilities, in Karnes City and Dilley, are run by private prison companies. Though the families are not technically prisoners, they’re treated like they are, she said. In one case, guards would not permit her students to bring a cupcake to a client celebrating his 9th birthday in detention, she said.