Statement by NIJC Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy
The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) welcomes the announcement that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will close the Artesia, New Mexico, detention center for mothers and children by the end of the year. Hastily created in late June, the Artesia facility locked up hundreds of families, many of whom were fleeing serious violence and persecution in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. At a remote location in the middle of the desert—several hours from the closest cities—access to counsel and mental health resources were perpetual challenges. Children suffered, as the opening of the detention center's school was delayed for months and children were ill and lost weight. NIJC and allies worked tirelessly to push for the closure of Artesia and will be happy to see its doors close in the next six weeks.
This good news is overshadowed, however, by DHS’s announcement that next month it will open the United States’ largest immigration detention facility yet—just for mothers and children. With capacity to detain 2,400 family members by spring 2015, the opening of the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, reopens a dark chapter for the Obama administration’s immigration policies. The new detention center at Dilley will be run by the Corrections Corporation of America, a for-profit private prison company that ran the family detention facility in Hutto, Texas, that was shut down in 2009 following litigation over human rights abuses.
The mothers and children who will be held in Dilley have come to the United States—and presented themselves to Border Patrol—because they are seeking safe haven from violence and persecution. They present no risk of flight nor do they threaten public safety. Rather than locking them up, the U.S. government should release them on cost-effective alternatives to detention programs, which cost as little as 70 cents to $17 per person per day compared to the projected daily cost of detention at Dilley of $298 per person.
Detaining mothers and children is misguided, inhumane, and a waste of taxpayer dollars. NIJC calls on President Obama to treat all families humanely and end its use of family detention before more children and mothers are harmed.
Read more about family detention: immigrantjustice.org/stop-detaining-families