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Tahirih Welcomes Homeland Security’s New Commitment to Humane Detention But Says ‘The Fight Is Not Over’

One year after the Obama Administration began holding refugee women and their children — many of whom are survivors of unspeakable violence — in prison-like and inhumane conditions, it has conceded that changes must be made in its detention policy.

A little boy in detention in Texas suffers from an untreated rash. Detainees in detention centers in Texas have testified that they do not receive proper medical care.

A little boy in detention in Texas suffers from an untreated rash. Detainees in detention centers in Texas have testified that they do not receive proper medical care.

The changes are detailed in a June 24 statement from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. The statement reads: “I have reached the conclusion that we must make substantial changes in our detention practices with respect to families with children… We must enforce our immigration laws in a fair and humane manner, consistent with our values as Americans.”

The Secretary’s announcement comes after more than a year of dogged advocacy and litigation by non-profits, private attorneys, community activists, and members of Congress, all seeking an end to family detention.

“We welcome this news, but the fight is not over,” said Tahirih Director of Policy and Programs Archi Pyati. “Until family detention is altogether discontinued, we will be carefully watching how refugee women and children are being treated in the United States.”

Mothers and children in detention in Texas assemble to greet members of Congress.

Mothers and children in detention in Texas assemble to greet members of Congress.

Some areas of ongoing concern include: the fairness of the screening interviews, including the language in which they are conducted and the standards that are applied; the length of time until the interviews are conducted; the fairness of any bond amounts or alternatives to detention that are employed; and the conditions, treatment, and access to care available inside the facilities.

“The prolonged detention of women and children refugees up to now has been a moral and legal failure,” said Pyati. “We will continue to work to ensure that every refugee woman and child has a full and fair chance to seek justice in safety and dignity.”

For more information about unjust family detention, please join Tahirih Justice Center, National Latin@ Network, and other refugee advocates for a live Twitter chat from 2 to 3 p.m., EST, on July 2. You can join the conversation using #TalkFamDetention. Tahirih Justice Center is on Twitter @tahirihjustice.

Featured photos were taken by members of Congress who toured detention centers in Karnes and Dilley, Texas on Monday and Tuesday, June 22-23. For more information about the congressional tour of the detention centers, including an audio recording, a photo slideshow, and a drawing from an 8-year-old in detention, please visit Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard’s website.

PRESS CONTACT: Communications Manager Marlena Hartz | marlenah@tahirih.org | 571-282-6193

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