Under the Obama Administration, for-profit detention centers have detained thousands of undocumented women and their children. Rife with issues relating to abuse, poor medical treatment, and neglect, these detention facilities are filled mostly with women and children that should qualify for asylum status.
Despite promises from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to reform detention practices, relatively little has been done to end the detention of women and families or detention of immigrants as a whole. In fact, in response to the recent migration of Central American refugees, the Department of Homeland Security increased detention of mothers and children by 4,000 percent.
Detention centers are expensive to maintain, especially now. Regular detention of immigrants costs an estimated $60,000 a year per detainee, while detention of families is estimated to cost over $120,000 a year per family member. Often, children who are natural-born American citizens are split from their parents, causing the government to step in and take care of the child and thus expanding the number of people in need of government aid. To make matters worse, family detention centers, like the infamous Hutto facility in Texas, have been constantly accused of allowing deplorable conditions: malnourishment, unsanitary conditions, and sexual assault remain constant problems.
On top of being cost-inefficient, detention centers have a negative impact on the psychological and physical development of children. At the detention center in Artesia, New Mexico, children experienced abnormally high rates of weight loss, gastrointestinal problems, and suicidal thoughts.
Not only is the American method of detaining immigrants appalling, but it is often illegal. Over the summer, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ruled that the detainment of immigrant families and children violates the 1997 court caseFlores v. Meese. In the ruling, Gee ordered that the administration stop “holding children at centers not licensed to care for them and from holding families unless they posed a flight risk or a threat to national security.” Though the government was given the deadline of October 23rd to comply with the ruling, justice department attorneys have yet to file proof that they have complied with Gee’s orders. Immigrant detention centers have additionally been involved in scandals regarding indefinite and mandatory detention and more notably the use of “slave labor” to run detention facilities.
The large-scale detention of immigrant families in the United States is both expensive and embarrassing, not to mention a gross violation of human rights. In addition to the high economic costs, there has been a lack of transparency while abuse of detainees is a pervasive, recurring problem. It is reasonable to say that human rights abuses alone provide enough reason to end family detention.