One Third of the Senate and House of Representatives Call on Secretary Jeh Johnson to End Family Detention

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The Dilley detention center under construction.
The Dilley detention center under construction.

Each year on June 20th, hundreds of thousands of people celebrate World Refugee Day. Last year, the celebration was tainted by the Department of Homeland Security’s announcement of its plans to open the now infamous Artesia Family Residential Center to detain mothers and children fleeing Central America and seeking refuge in the United States. The Artesia facility is now closed, but two more family detention centers have since opened, continuing a sad chapter in the United States’ history of failing to welcome the stranger and protect the most vulnerable.

But there is hope. Just one month shy of this year’s World Refugee Day celebrations, 136 House members delivered a letter to Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, urging the Administration to end the practice of family detention. The letter cites specific examples and concerns with conditions, mental health, due process and other medical concerns of the detained mothers and children. The letter also questions the Department of Homeland Security’s defense that family detention is a necessary and justifiable deterrence mechanism against future refugee flows, stating that this “does not justify the very real harm being inflicted upon mothers and children in a secure setting.”

This week, 33 Senators signed on a similar letter, calling on Secretary Johnson to “end the practice of presumptive detention of families.”

Family detention needs to end. It is reassuring to see that a third of the Senate and the House of Representatives agree that “detaining mothers and children in jail-like settings is not the answer” and “is not reflective of our values as a Nation.”

We look forward to continued progress on ending family detention and are encouraged by the bold actions of the Senate and House of Representatives to end family detention.

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