AUSTIN – In December 2015, immigrant advocates spoke during a public
hearing, pleading with child protection officials to consider the fate
of thousands of undocumented women and children that are being held in
Immigrant advocates are strongly against the state licensing the detention
centers as child care facilities.
“They are prisons, plain and simple,” said Antonio Diaz, of
the Texas Indigenous Council. “They are prisons for profit.”
The public hearing in December when on for hours; at issue is whether the
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services should license and
begin regulating the two detention centers in Texas that are housing thousands
of undocumented immigrants, who are mothers and children.
State officials are deciding if they will keep the two detention centers
in Texas open to house undocumented immigrants. The facilities were built
after Texas experienced a surge of immigrants from Central America in 2014.
In the past, state officials contended that it was necessary to license
the facilities because the children were in imminent peril. In January
however, their opinion changed and they said publicly that the licensing
move was about immigration control.
What changed? In July, a decision by a federal court judge banned federal
authorities from housing children in facilities that were not licensed
by state child welfare agencies – that is what compelled state officials
to push harder for the licensing.
Following the judge’s decision, Texas and the federal government
were left with two options, either license and regulate the two Texas
facilities, or release the illegal immigrants into the community without
regard to the federal immigration laws and processes.
“The federal government therefore requested licensure to prevent
this, and Texas agreed,” said Department of Family and Protective
Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins.
Immigrant rights advocates are opposing the state licensing. They say that
regulating the “baby jails” would only help keep these facilities
open. Their solution is to have the women and children released into the
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is expected to announce
its decision in the upcoming weeks.
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