Two mothers from Honduras and six from El Salvador, along with their children, were finally released from family detention centers in the past several days. These families were among those swept up in immigration raids in early January after the Obama Administration claimed their legal avenues had been exhausted.
When the families rounded up in the immigration raids arrived at a detention center in Dilley, Texas, the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project quickly filed appeals. CARA secured temporary stays of removal from the Board of Immigration Appeals for these eight who were released, plus four other families still being detained. The 12 mothers and their children, who fled Central America, have been given a stay from deportation as they continue to fight their asylum cases.
Yet, even after winning stays of deportation, they remained locked up in Dilley, Texas for weeks. Many of them even endured the additional trauma of transfer to another detention center in Berks County, Pennsylvania—the same facility that is now on the verge of losing its state license.
In addition, 30 other mothers detained with their children at the Berks Family Detention Center wrote a letter to the media recently pleading for their freedom. Many of these families have now been detained for as long as six months.
“We came here seeking refuge. We came to this country to save our lives and the lives of our children…We have not committed any crime, and it is unjust that our children, at such an early age, are aware that they are incarcerated, in custody 24 hours a day, when at this time they should be participating in the school year and living a life with dignity, that all children deserve.”
This is a human tragedy in the making. The Obama Administration is failing these families by short-circuiting their due process rights and aggressively rounding them up and incarcerating them.
Instead of continuing to use the most aggressive enforcement tactics against the most vulnerable individuals – children and families who are fleeing a refugee crisis in Central America– the administration should consider extending Temporary Protected Status or some other broad humanitarian protection to these women and children. Ultimately, this administration must bring the practice of family detention to an end.