AILA Public Statements, Press Releases

Obama Administration Continues to Detain Traumatized Mothers and Children Who Fled Violence

3/29/16 AILA Doc. No. 16032962. Asylum, Detention & Bond, Removal & Relief

For Immediate Release:
Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Washington, DC - Highlighting newly uncovered cases of deep psychological trauma affecting mothers detained with their young children in family detention centers in South Texas and Pennsylvania after fleeing extreme violence in Central America, the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project submitted a complaint to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (OCRCL) and Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The complaint is based on independent evaluations by mental health professionals and sworn declarations from the mothers themselves documenting in detail the due process violations and other difficulties that they and other traumatized families face as a result of the Obama Administration's shameful "deterrence" strategies.

The eight cases included in the complaint represent only a small subset of the many detained families who are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression or other emotional or cognitive disorders. They represent an extremely vulnerable population for which detention is inappropriate and exceptionally damaging. Study after study shows that the negative mental health consequences of detention are particularly acute for children and asylum-seekers. Despite this, the government continues to re-traumatize survivors of violence, subjecting them to fast-track removal proceedings and sharply limiting their access to legal counsel and mental health services by holding them in remote detention centers.

The cases also show how the fast-track removal processes to which DHS currently subjects all children and their mothers in family detention centers dangerously impede access to protections under U.S. law. Many of the mental health evaluations contained in this complaint specifically document mothers' inability to share their stories with an asylum officer or an immigration judge in the first instance due to trauma symptoms - leading in several cases to the wrongful deportation of families with valid asylum claims.

CARA calls on OCRCL and OIG to immediately and thoroughly investigate these specific cases and undertake a comprehensive investigation into the psychological and physiological impact that family detention is having on children and mothers, as well as the due process violations that occur as a result. There remains no humane way to detain families; no amount of services in detention could mitigate the traumatic impact of confinement on children and mothers, especially given that many are survivors of violence and other trauma who are seeking protection in the United States. CARA once again urges President Obama to end family detention and instead guarantee legal counsel and facilitate community-based case management services to reinforce the integrity of the removal system while minimizing trauma.

Press inquiries, please contact:

AILA: Belle Woods,, 202-507-7675
Council: Wendy Feliz,, 202-507-7524
RAICES: Mohammad Abdollahi,, 210-544-7811
CLINIC: Patricia Zapor,, 301-565-4830


The CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project is a partnership of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), the American Immigration Council (Council), Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), that provides legal representation and undertakes advocacy on behalf of mothers and children held in federal family detention centers.

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