AILA: Expansion of Family Detention Means the United States Will Jail More Victims of Violence

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

George Tzamaras
Belle Woods

Washington, DC - Leslie A. Holman, President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) responded to the confirmation today that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has contracted with a private prison corporation to open a massive new detention facility for families in Dilley, Texas:

"This is the latest example of the Obama Administration compounding its mistakes and treating asylum-seeking mothers and children as criminals rather than families seeking safety. I'm disappointed that the Administration is again turning away from our country's values. Jailing refugees is no way to honor our nation's tradition of welcoming and protecting those fleeing danger and violence.

"You can call it a 'Family Residential Center' but it is a prison. Dilley will be the largest immigration detention facility nationwide-all for the purpose of jailing families. That's not what these women and children deserve. These families deserve to be released to relatives here in the U.S., to be offered a chance to post bond, and to be allowed the time required to make their asylum claims. There is also a range of alternatives that could be used, such as ankle monitors or intensive supervision. But the federal government is objecting to everything but jail detention across the board for these families. Mass imprisonment of mothers, infants, and toddlers is something I've never seen before. That's just wrong.

"Additionally, while ICE states that it ensures that facilities offer access to counsel, that has simply not been the case at the facilities at which AILA members are volunteering. The very nature of these prisons results in attorneys being blocked from meaningful communication with their pro bono clients and a shortage of lawyers nearby, along with a host of other issues. Our members' pro bono efforts were implemented without the assistance of the federal government and required continued and constant push by our volunteers to offer the women and children their lawful chance to seek asylum.

"What we really need, instead of millions spent on another detention facility, is to address the factors pushing children and families to make the incredibly dangerous journey northward. The current humanitarian crisis will not be solved until we focus on the root causes, which coincidentally, is also the moral thing to do."


The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 14092345.