New York Times Investigates ‘The Shame of America’s Family Detention Camps’

Published On: Donate
House trailers at the family detention center in Dilley, Texas
House trailers at the family detention center in Dilley, Texas

LIRS staff members aren’t the only ones visiting family detention centers and leaving feeling deeply troubled.

New York Times journalist, Wil S. Hylton, recently investigated the practice of family detention in the feature article, “The Shame of America’s Family Detention Camps.” LIRS is told that the article will appear on the cover of this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.

Hylton thoroughly researches the family detention system, interviewing attorneys on their experiences aiding abused clients, looking into the policies that put these “massive” detention centers in place, and describing the violence causing mothers to flee with their children. The article points at the simple and clear inhumanity of locking up traumatized mothers and children in “metal trailers surrounded by barbed wire.”

Christina Brown, an attorney who volunteered at the detention center in Artesia, New Mexico, describes her experience to Hylton in this excerpt. Hylton writes:

As they opened the door to [one of the buildings at Artesia], Brown felt a blast of cold air. The front room was empty except for two small desks arranged near the center. A door in the back opened to reveal dozens of young women and children huddled together. Many were gaunt and malnourished, with dark circles under their eyes.

Brown took a seat at a desk, and a guard brought a woman to meet her. Brown asked the woman in Spanish how she ended up in detention. The woman explained that she had to escape from her home in El Salvador when gangs targeted her family. ‘Her husband had just been murdered, and she and her kids found his body,’ Brown recalls. ‘After he was murdered, the gang started coming after her and threatening to kill her.’ Brown agreed to help the woman apply for political asylum in the United States, explaining that it might be possible to pay a small bond and then live with friends or relatives while she waited for an asylum hearing. When the woman returned to the back room, Brown met with another, who was fleeing gangs in Guatemala. Then she met another young woman, who fled violence in Honduras. ‘They were all just breaking down,’ Brown said. ‘They were telling us that they were afraid to go home. They were crying, saying they were scared for themselves and their children. It was a constant refrain: ‘I’ll die if I go back.’ ‘

Hylton delves into many of the core issues surrounding detention that LIRS researched recently in Locking Up Family Values, Again

We firmly believe that detention is no place for children, and are committed to ending this practice. Join LIRS and raise your voice on family detention! Visit the LIRS Action Center to send a message to your member of Congress.

To read the full article, click here.

Photo credit: Joanne Kelsey

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