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USICE’s chief called family detention ‘summer camp.’ Here’s what it looks like inside.

03:30  26 august  2019
03:30  26 august  2019 Source:   washingtonpost.com

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Here ’ s what it looks like inside . Women and children walk across a field at a family detention center. DILLEY, Tex. — More than a year after he drew criticism for comparing family detention to a “ summer camp ,” the nation’ s top immigration enforcer stood in a clean hallway in America’ s largest

Here ’ s what it looks like inside . The Washington Post 8/26/2019 Maria Sacchetti. DILLEY, Tex. —More than a year after he drew criticism for comparing family detention to a “ summer camp ,” the nation’ s top immigration enforcer stood in a clean hallway in America’ s largest family detention

DILLEY, Tex. —More than a year after he drew criticism for comparing family detention to a “summer camp,” the nation’s top immigration enforcer stood in a clean hallway in America’s largest family detention complex and gestured around himself.

ICE’s chief called family detention ‘summer camp.’ Here’s what it looks like inside.© Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post Immigrant woman and children walk across a field as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) hosts a media tour at the South Texas Family Residential Center, which houses families who are pending disposition of their immigration cases on Friday, Aug 23, 2019 in Dilley, TX.

“Take a look,” said Matthew Albence, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s acting director.

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Here ’ s what it looks like inside . The Washington Post 8/26/2019 Maria Sacchetti. DILLEY, Tex. —More than a year after he drew criticism for comparing family detention to a “ summer camp ,” the nation’ s top immigration enforcer stood in a clean hallway in America’ s largest family detention

Here ' s what it looks like inside . By Maria Sacchetti The Washington Post. Aug 25, 2019. DILLEY — More than a year after he drew criticism for comparing family detention to a “ summer camp ,” the nation’ s top immigration enforcer stood in a clean hallway in America’ s largest family detention

Across the hall was a dental office, with a reclining chair and sterile instruments. The cafeteria was serving hot dogs, lime-cilantro chicken, tortillas and green salad — all you can eat. Kindergartners sat on a colorful mat in a schoolhouse trailer and learned to sing “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”

ICE allowed news photographers and television cameras into the family residential center on Friday because, they said, some news reports and members of Congress have confused the Border Patrol’s cramped, short-term jails — criticized by immigration attorneys and Democratic lawmakers for their “horrendous” conditions — with the comprehensive family detention centers that ICE is attempting to expand.

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ICE detention centers preparing for longer average stays by migrant families DILLEY, Texas -- The acting chief of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Friday during a tour of a Texas migrant family detention center that the federal agency was preparing for the average stay for families to increase from 10 days to up to 50 days. © AP Photo/Eric Gay Immigrants seeking asylum hold hands as they leave a cafeteria at the ICE South Texas Family Residential Center, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, in Dilley, Texas. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement hosted a media tour of the center that houses families who are pending disposition of their immigration cases.

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The ICE chief called family detention ‘ summer camp . Here ’ s what it looks like inside . ICE allowed news photographers and television cameras into the family residential center for the first time on Friday.

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Albence and other officials led the tour on the same day the Trump administration officially moved to terminate a court agreement that sets basic standards for the care of underage migrants, including a 20-day limit on their detention. The administration says withdrawing from the Flores Settlement Agreement, in place since 1997, would not mean families would be detained indefinitely. Officials said they hope to hold them no longer than 50 to 60 days, enough time to deport those who are ineligible for asylum and release the rest.

That would triple the length of time children are held, and appeals could take longer.

ICE’s chief called family detention ‘summer camp.’ Here’s what it looks like inside.© Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post A playground is seen as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) hosts a media tour at the South Texas Family Residential Center, which houses families who are pending disposition of their immigration cases on Friday, Aug 23, 2019 in Dilley, TX.

The South Texas Family Residential Center sits off a vast stretch of scrubland in a tiny former oil-boom town, an hour south of San Antonio. There’s a Dairy Queen, a motel named White House Inn and not much else. CoreCivic, a private for-profit company that specializes in corrections and runs adult immigration jails, also runs the center.

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ICE Official Says Family Detention Centers Are ‘ Like Summer Camps ’. By Sarah Nechamkin. The remark raised eyebrows from Senator Mazie Hirono, a Democrat representing Hawaii, who asked officials whether they would send their own children to these so- called “ family residential centers.”

Another joked about what a summer camp would look like if it was run by Ingraham. 'Your child will learn how to properly fold a foil emergency blanket and 'Great @IngrahamAngle - sounds like a fun summer plan for YOUR kids. Send them down to the detention camps - maybe one of those fancy

The Dilley facility is one of three family detention centers in the United States, with a total capacity of about 3,000 beds, though only two are in use. Approximately 900 parents and children were being held in Dilley and another facility in Pennsylvania as of last week.

Albence said that, unlike the Border Patrol facilities where children lacked toothbrushes and were photographed sleeping on the ground, ICE’s family residential centers give children and parents three hot meals a day and access to a wide array of services, including a 24-hour infirmary, a day care, a library with Internet and email access, a beauty salon, a charter school and a canteen. Officials allowed a photographer to access the inside of the facility in 2015.

Mothers and children as young as babies sleep in dorms with bunk beds and share bathrooms, with trailers divided into neighborhoods with names such as Green Turtle and Yellow Frog.

“This is clearly not a concentration camp,” Albence said, referring to the “ugly rhetoric” that some activists have directed at ICE agents in recent months.

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While delivering testimony, Albence compared family detention centers to " summer camps ." Chip Somodevilla/Getty. "There' s basketball courts, there' s Lee Gelernt, project director at the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants' Rights Project, said comparing detention centers to summer camps

A top immigration official on Tuesday said family detention centers are "more like summer camp " than a jail during a congressional hearing on the administration' s efforts to reunite thousands of immigrant families separated as a result of its zero-tolerance immigration policy.

Pediatricians, child psychiatrists, immigration lawyers, congressional Democrats and others swiftly condemned the move to end Flores, and lawyers vowed to oppose the withdrawal in court. Advocates for immigrants say detaining children with hundreds of strangers is dangerous. Chickenpox, the flu and other diseases can spread quickly. Children and parents grow stressed, and some become suicidal.

ICE’s chief called family detention ‘summer camp.’ Here’s what it looks like inside.© Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post Immigrant children play with toys in a daycare as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) hosts a media tour at the South Texas Family Residential Center, which houses families who are pending disposition of their immigration cases on Friday, Aug 23, 2019 in Dilley, TX.

The mother of a 19-month-old girl who fell ill at Dilley and died shortly after her release last year has filed a wrongful-death claim saying the girl, Mariee, was vomiting constantly and neglected at Dilley.

“Detention for any length of time, with or without their families, is bad for children,” said Caryl Stern, president and chief executive of UNICEF USA, the United Nations agency that advocates for women and children in the United States, in a statement. “The proof is there. Detained children experience long-lasting harm on their well-being, safety, and development.”

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Before the rule can take effect, officials say it must go before U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee, an Obama appointee in Los Angeles, and lawyers for both sides are scheduled to file briefs in the coming days.

Officials said Dilley is not a secure facility, and that women and children are free to wander around the campus. But if families try to leave, officials said, they could be apprehended for being in the United States illegally. ICE did not allow reporters to speak with the women and children held in Dilley on Friday.

But in interviews Thursday at a San Antonio bus station an hour north of Dilley, women recently released from the facility and heading to join friends and relatives in Miami, Dallas and other cities, said they were treated well. The food was tasty, they said, and they appreciated access to doctors and lawyers. Dilley was far better than the Border Patrol holding cells, they said, or the safe houses they stayed in during their trip through Mexico.

Still, the women said, they considered Dilley a jail.

A tall fence surrounds it; guards keep watch. Women and children wear name tags stamped with the CoreCivic logo.

ICE’s chief called family detention ‘summer camp.’ Here’s what it looks like inside.© Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post Clouds are seen through high fencing as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) hosts a media tour at the South Texas Family Residential Center, which houses families who are pending disposition of their immigration cases on Friday, Aug 23, 2019 in Dilley, TX.

“We didn’t suffer. But we were locked up,” said Lillian, a 29-year-old woman who spoke on the condition that her last name not be used because she was afraid to speak publicly, in part because she said she had fled gang members attempting to extort her in Honduras. “For me, it was being locked up. You want to work, to go out. But you’re locked up.”

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Dilley’s guards — not parents — set the rules: Children cannot run barefoot, officials said.

“Mothers must not leave their children alone in any moment,” not even to go to the bathroom, said signs posted in a dorm room.

If children color on walls or furniture, another rule said, “a disciplinary report will be produced.”

Everyone has to make their bed, fold their clothes and place their shoes against the wall or under the bed. Officials reward migrants with prizes for the “cleanest room.”

Officials said the rules are for the families’ health and safety. But advocates say it traumatizes children when their parents are not in charge.

Mirian, a 25-year-old mother of three children — 11, 7 and nearly 2 years old — said she struggled to sleep at Dilley. The Honduran native had to monitor each child constantly and worried about being deported or the children falling ill.

“I didn’t know if I’d ever get out,” she said, speaking on the condition that her last name not be used because of privacy concerns .

Migrant family residential centers expanded under the Obama administration to hold rapidly growing numbers of Central American families crossing the U.S. southern border with Mexico to seek asylum. Because of the 20-day limit on detaining children, officials say they have been forced to release most families in the United States to await an immigration hearing and many disappear.

ICE’s chief called family detention ‘summer camp.’ Here’s what it looks like inside.© Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post An immigrant child plays in front of patriotic phrases and symbols covering the walls in a gymnasium as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) hosts a media tour at the South Texas Family Residential Center, which houses families who are pending disposition of their immigration cases on Friday, Aug 23, 2019 in Dilley, TX.

Officials say expanding family detention under the Obama administration created a deterrent that led to a marked drop in apprehensions from 68,000 family members in 2014 to nearly 40,000 the following year.

But Gee ruled in 2015 that the government could not hold children with their parents longer than 20 days in facilities that had not been licensed by states — a decision officials blame for a record spike in crossings, more than 400,000 this fiscal year.

Gee ruled last year that “any number of other factors could have caused the increase in illegal border crossings, including civil strife, economic degradation, and fear of death in the migrants’ home countries.”

Trump administration officials say they are confident that detaining families can resolve the immigration cases quickly and combat smugglers’ claims in Central America that it is easy to enter the United States if migrants travel with a child.

maria.sacchetti@washpost.com

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