Hundreds of Women and Children Just Released From Immigrant Detention Need Support

Nearly five hundred women and children were released from family detention centers in Texas this week after a judge ruled these facilities were unsuitable for children. While the decision is a victory for advocates, the unexpected release has left families and aid organizations scrambling.

The detention centers opened in 2014 as a response to the influx of Central American women and children fleeing violence and surrendering to Border Patrol to request asylum.  These centers, however, were not designed to house women or children. In fact, according to RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services), the families currently at Dilley are being housed in former “man camps” that were used for oil field workers. Refugees held at these detention facilities have reported horrific abuse, including sexual abuse, poor legal representation, and lack of proper medical care. These violent conditions are reflective of the conditions facing immigrants in detention centers across the country. What’s worse: detention centers retraumatize women and children who already experience depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the border-crossing.

For years, advocates have called attention to these irreparable harms. ” Visions from the Inside,” an art and letter-writing project, amplifies the stories of women kept in detention centers. More recently, mothers at Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania participated in a hunger strike for their freedom. These activists have argued that detention centers cause long-term damage to the mental and emotional wellbeing of women and their children; simply building family-friendly detention centers is not enough because, in doing so, refugees are still seen and treated as criminals—not as survivors in need of safe haven. Even if hair salons and cartoon wall murals were installed to “soften the edges” of these detention centers, women and children would still be at risk and exploited for financial gain (50% or more of detention facilities for immigrants are run by private prisons).

So, the release of these families then is a win for those of us connecting anti-prison work to the fight for thousands of immigrants cruelly held in detention. But our work cannot end here. Many of the women and children who have been released now have nowhere to go and certainly no access to mental or other medical relief. While some of the women have families to turn toothers are alone, speak little to no English, and have been dropped off by the busload at churches and aid organizations in Texas.

You can start supporting these women by donating to RAICES here. And while celebrating the release of these women, let’s keep in mind the thousands of immigrants who are still in detention, separated from their families, and vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment.

Header image via San Antonio Express-News

Durham, NC

Barbara is a doctoral student at The University of North Carolina interested in im/migration and migrant activism and organizing.

Barbara is a doctoral student at The University of North Carolina interested in im/migration and migrant activism and organizing.

Read more about Barbara

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