T. Don Hutto: A Detention Center for Families

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I recently watched a fascinating documentary on the T. Don Hutto Family Detention Center, titled "The Least of These."  For those that are unfamiliar with Hutto, Hutto was a detention center that housed undocumented families, including children.  Obviously, what was so unusual about Hutto and what drew public attention was the fact that children were essentially being treated as prisoners by our government.  The reason given by the Department of Homeland Security for the creation of Hutto was that (a) security issues had made it necessary to monitor illegal entrants to ensure that they appeared for immigration proceedings, and that (b) a family detention center could accomplish this goal and keep families together simultaneously.  I found the line of reasoning by DHS suspect because their rallying cry of "keeping families together" largely ignored the bigger human rights issue, which was the imprisonment of children in the first place.

I had two major issues with the Hutto facility depicted in this documentary.  First, while I agree that the monitoring of undocumented individuals awaiting proceedings is a legitimate concern, a detention facility for families was a monumental overreaction to this problem.  For years, there have been communities ran by non-profit organizations that housed the undocumented while they awaited proceedings, and allowed the government to monitor their whereabouts.  Devices similar to house arrest ankle bracelets had also been utilized to monitor illegal entrants, and were much more humane and cost-efficient than a family detention center. 

The second major issue I had with the Hutto facility was that asylum seekers were also being detained.  Though asylum seekers are undocumented, they are still people with a viable claim to legal status in the U.S.  To be imprisoned while awaiting a hearing essentially purveys the attitude that people seeking asylum are guilty until proven innocent.  What is more troublesome is the fact that, in theory, people seeking asylum are fleeing to the U.S. to escape abuse and torture in their home countries.  In the case of the families that were held in the Hutto facility, our country's response to their issues was to imprison them and their children.

I believe that this documentary provides insight into how illogical and unreasonable the policies of the U.S. toward immigrants have been, and further highlights the need for reform of our immigration laws. 

 

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan Portner published on May 14, 2009 11:03 AM.

Green Cards through Marriage: Evidence to Gather was the previous entry in this blog.

Conditional Residence and Marital Problems is the next entry in this blog.

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