Family Detention: Wasteful and Counterproductive

May 3, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Texas’ decision to grant a child care license to an immigrant detention center only serves to prolong the wasteful and counterproductive federal strategy of detaining young mothers and children.

The state’s decision to license the detention center in Karnes City as a child care facility permits the federal government to continue to hold children in family detention, at least for now.

The privately operated Karnes City facility, which can hold up to 580 people at a time, has housed mothers and children for weeks and sometimes even months — thousands in all. The license will initially last for six months.

“If ever there was lipstick on a pig, this is it,” Jonathan Ryan, executive director of RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services) in Texas, told the New York Times. “If you want a child care facility, you don’t contract with a for-profit prison company.”

By obtaining a state license to provide child care, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is hoping to strengthen the legal case for family detention in ongoing litigation. Since 2014, DHS has continued to press for family detention despite mounting evidence of its wasteful and harmful effects.

“A prison is no place for young children, period. Texas would not have had the opportunity to grant this license if the Obama administration ended family detention,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “Family detention is wasteful and unnecessary, and the ongoing disputes over it are a waste of time and resources.

“We will continue to call on the administration to end family detention of young mothers and kids who pose no threat to the public.”