Press Releases

Rep. Roybal-Allard and Immigrant Rights Groups Condemn Detention of Mothers and Young Children Fleeing Violence in Central America

Rep. Roybal-Allard Calls for Investigation of Abuse of Migrant Women Held in Detention Centers

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Washington, October 30, 2014 | Ben Soskin ((202) 225-1766) | comments
Today, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) denounced the inhumane conditions and mistreatment of women inside the Department of Homeland Security’s new family detention centers.  She was joined by representatives from the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) in condemning federal immigration authorities’ continued incarceration of mothers and children who fled violence in Central America and sought refuge in the United States.  Rep. Roybal-Allard also called for a complete and independent investigation of allegations of sexual abuse of migrant women at the Karnes County Family Residential Center in Karnes County, Texas.

“It’s tragic and completely unacceptable that women who fled their homes to escape sexual assault and domestic violence have suffered abuse in our government’s custody,” said Rep. Roybal-Allard.  “Detention is inappropriate for most families, and it doesn’t make sense to incarcerate women who are survivors of sexual or domestic violence.  Young mothers and rape victims do not pose a threat to our national security, and we should stop treating them like dangerous criminals.  We can address the humanitarian situation at our border without endangering these vulnerable women or compromising our most basic American values.”

WRC and LIRS today released a new report — Locking Up Family Values, Again — which details incidents of children’s weight loss and depression, mothers’ separation from their children, and the denial of even the most basic due process protections traditionally afforded to asylum seekers.

In 2009, the Obama Administration closed what then was the United States’ largest family immigration detention facility, following years of controversy, media exposure, and a lawsuit.  Unfortunately, since the recent increase in the number of mothers and children fleeing violence and persecution in Central America, President Obama has called for the return to this widely discredited, inhumane, and costly practice.

“It is shocking that the Obama Administration would return to the use of family detention after the practice has been universally recognized as inhumane and detrimental to children’s health and wellbeing,” said Michelle Brané, Director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission.  “We have observed too many incidents of abuse and gross negligence inside these facilities that have resulted in serious trauma and family separation. Family detention is unequivocally inappropriate and unnecessary.  The Administration must reverse this misguided practice, immediately close all new facilities, and implement alternatives.”

Rep. Roybal-Allard’s statement from today’s press call is below.

“I’d like to thank LIRS, the Women’s Refugee Commission and the American Immigration Lawyers Association for organizing today’s call and for their leadership on behalf of our immigrant communities.

“I’m speaking today as chair of the Congressional Women’s Working Group on Immigration Reform, a group of women leaders working to ensure that the needs and contributions of immigrant women are understood and respected.  

“I’d like to share our concerns with you today about the detention of mothers and their young children who came to the United States to escape violence in Central America.  Unfortunately, some of these vulnerable women have suffered abuse in our government’s custody.  Female detainees held at the Karnes detention center in Texas describe being removed from their cells late at night and molested by facility personnel.  They also say that guards have solicited women with promises of money or help with their immigration cases in exchange for sexual favors.  

“Tragically, many of the women in detention fled their homes to escape sexual assault and domestic violence.  Most came from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, countries with some of the highest rates of violence against women in the world.  In order to prevent these women from continuing to be traumatized while in the custody of our government, the Women’s Working Group is calling for a complete, independent investigation of these allegations.  We are also asking the Department of Homeland Security not to deport any victims or witnesses to crimes at Karnes, at least until the investigation is completed.

“In addition, we continue to question whether locking up these mothers and their young children is a smart policy.  We believe detention is inappropriate in most cases for families and that it doesn’t make sense to incarcerate women who are survivors of sexual or domestic violence.  Young mothers and rape victims do not pose a threat to our national security and we should stop treating them like dangerous criminals.  

“We can address the humanitarian situation at our border without endangering these vulnerable women or compromising our most basic American values.”

 
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