Officials with the Texas Department of Family Services are considering granting child care licenses to immigration detention centers that hold young children. The immigration detention centers, known as “family residential centers” by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), currently hold dozens of families seeking asylum in the U.S. The move to grant these facilities licenses as child care centers has drawn fire from both immigrant advocacy groups and child development experts.
Details of the Texas Immigration Detention Centers
The Texas immigration detention centers, located in the small South Texas towns of Dilley and Karney, are operated by private prison firms contracted by ICE to detain undocumented immigrants. In the past two years, these immigration detention centers have housed hundreds of families, including women and children, seeking to escape economic destitution and political upheaval in Mexico and Central America. These families are held in the detention facilities until their asylum requests are approved, or until ICE officials can arrange for deportation.
DFS Cites “Emergency” Texas Immigration Detention Centers Proposal
The move to allow immigration detention centers to become licensed child care facilities stems from what state officials label as an “emergency”. Last summer, a federal judge ruled that immigration detention centers that detain entire families violates a previous settlement the government reached with immigration rights groups. The settlement prevents ICE from holding children in facilities that do not accommodate their needs. In response, DFS officials proposed creating a new category of child care license custom-made for the detention facilities.
Judge Overrules Texas Immigration Detention Centers “Emergency”
DFS officials sought to fast-track the proposal, which would allow the agency to avoid a public comment period on the merits of the move. Last month, a state district judge in Austin ruled that the “emergency” to license the immigration detention centers did not exist and required the agency to accept public comments on the proposal. The agency agreed to accept public comments on the proposal until mid-December.
Critics: Texas Immigration Detention Centers Fails to Meet “Minimum Standards”
Some critics of the proposal to license immigration detention centers as child care facilities claim that DFS and other state officials attempted to bypass the public. Luis Zayas, dean of the school of social work at the University of Texas at Austin, told a reporter that the plan would lower the “minimum standards” required for licensing child care facilities. He said that granting a license to immigration detention centers would violate those standards, such as not allowing children and unrelated adults in the same sleeping area.
Source: Houston Press
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