Democratic lawmakers toured two notorious immigration detention centers this week. They left determined to seek changes to the way our nation detains immigrants awaiting possible deportation.
“Let me just make clear: Our goal is to shut the facilities down,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.). “These kids, they shouldn’t be in there. … There is damage being caused to these kids that they’re going to have to live with for the rest of their lives.”
“There’s a difference between using beds while [the courts] are making a determination … and treating them as a locked facility, where they are now, treated as criminals,” Rep. Steny Hoyer said. “We are urging … that these facilities, for the purpose they’re being used, be closed.”
Gutierrez and Hoyer were part of an eight-member group of Democrats who traveled this week to the Karnes County Residential Center, a 532-capacity facility in Karnes City, Texas, and the South Texas Family Residential Center, a 2,400-capacity facility in Dilley.
Gutierrez also criticized the current system for its reliance on for-profit companies running the detention centers. He’s advocating for the facilities to be managed by the government, perhaps under the Health and Human Services Department.
“This shouldn’t be run by jailers. This should be run by people who care about kids,” he said. “Let’s take the profit out of it.”
Democrats called for the nation to prioritize the health and well-being of mothers and children while also prioritizing our enforcement objectives. Detaining mothers and children in jail-like settings is not the answer, according to these leaders.