Judge Releases Innocent Mothers and Children From Jail-Like Texas Detention Centers

When is a child care center not a child care center? When it operates like a jail.


That was the ruling of a Texas state judge when he released hundreds of women and children from detention centers after agreeing with critics that it was inhumane to restrain them while seeking asylum—and an inappropriate place for children, to boot.

Mothers and kids, most of them from Central American countries, can languish at the detention centers for months while their cases move forward in immigration court. The lucky ones are released to sponsors, often family members, so ICE knows where they are.

But they usually trickle out just a few at a time [...]

Last year U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ruled that the family detention policy violated a 1997 court settlement requiring that undocumented children be housed in the least restrictive setting possible and generally favoring their release from detention. In response, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services issued new rules defining “child care facility” to make it possible for the two detention centers to qualify.

Unfortunately, the most recent ruling invalidates those definitions and the licenses.  What’s a state to do? Release the women and children to sponsors or organizations, which, predictably were flooded with asylum seekers when the state bussed them over.

The Karnes and Dilley detention centers (where children and mothers were housed) would need to make significant changes to qualify as child care facilities under previously established Texas law. One problem is that the centers hold multiple families together in a single unit, meaning children have been housed with unrelated adults â€• a generally prohibited practice for child care facilities because of the risk of abuse.

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