Saturday, March 10, 2007

Don't punish children for acting their age

Glad to see that the Miami-Herald is making a statement. Check earlier post--horrible things are happening in New Bedford, MA with parents getting separated from children as a result of aggressive immigrant hunts and raids. -Angela
Posted on Wed, Mar. 07, 2007
Don't punish children for acting their age

Families in immigration custody shouldn't be treated like criminals. Yet this is how U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement now treats families routinely picked up at the border or elsewhere. The families are held in prison-like settings, and children are separated from parents as a form of punishment, according to a recent report by the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.
Cake confiscated

Families, especially children, shouldn't be detained when no one has committed a crime. Less expensive, more humane alternatives exist. Congress already has told ICE to stop separating families and to find alternatives to penal detention. Lawmakers should send a stronger message to end the mistreatment.

The new report, Locking Up Family Values, describes the conditions of families at two ICE facilities -- and particularly at the euphemistically named T. Don Hutto Residential Center. Located in Texas, Hutto is a former prison now operated for ICE by Corrections Corporation of America, which specializes in prisons. Hutto still has razor wire, prison cells and punitive treatment, even for children.

One former detainee, a 28-year-old Honduran, spent three months in Hutto with her daughters, ages 4 and 9. The pregnant detainee was released after a doctor determined that her baby wasn't developing, according to a report in The Houston Chronicle. The woman was constantly hungry, and her girls didn't go outside to play for weeks. When a guard brought a birthday cake for the 4-year-old, the cake was confiscated and the guard suspended. Why such cruelty?

Locking Up Family Values cites other examples of rigid, punitive treatment: children punished for behaving their age, parents stripped of their authority. Entire families traumatized. This is inhumane. ''The penal model of family detention leads to babies in uniforms with name tags, cribs inside prison cells, parents losing the ability to discipline their children and families unable to live as a normal family unit,'' the report said.

Less-costly alternatives

For these results, taxpayers currently pay about $200 a day per detainee in one of ICE's family-detention centers. The report recommends better, less-costly alternatives: ICE must stop locking up families in penal settings and close Hutto altogether. Asylum seekers should be released, as ICE policy directs. Families facing immigration proceedings should not be separated. Most should be released, adults under supervision and with ankle monitors, if needed. Worst case, families should be held in ''nonpenal, homelike'' settings.

Congress must ensure that ICE treats such families humanely.

© 2007 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.

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