Imagine a young mother who is abused and raped many times. She finally escapes to safety, fleeing along with her four-year-old son, but she is captured and held with her child in a prison-like facility for months on end without proper care, counseling, or any clue about whether or when she might be released. Feeling hopeless, she writes a letter in which she describes detention officials treating her “worse than an animal” and “killing [her] little by little.” She then slits her wrists. While being treated medically and separated from her son, officials begin paperwork to send her home to face additional abuse.
This is the story of Lilian, a 19 year-old mother from Central America, who came to the U.S. in search of safety. But instead of freedom from abuse, she found brutality in confinement. It has been one year since the Obama Administration suddenly ramped up the practice of indefinitely detaining women and children, and now three centers exist with the capacity to detain thousands of these most vulnerable refugees — the majority of whom have fled rape, domestic violence, and human trafficking.
Each year, on June 20th, we observe World Refugee Day to recognize the struggles and celebrate the courage of the millions around the world fleeing violence and persecution. They leave behind everything they know and love for a chance to live safely and with dignity. On this day, we honor refugees, and we remember our historic, legal, and moral obligation to protect them.
This year, I ask whether detaining refugee survivors of violence is how the U.S. government intends to live up to its commitment to provide safe harbor to the women and children who need it most. Read more.
Archi Pyati is the Director of Policy and Programs at Tahirih Justice Center.