ICE announces changes to family detention policies

Texas immigration advocates say it's not enough


SAN ANTONIO – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials announced changes Thursday to family detention policies that could affect facilities in Karnes City and Dilley.

However, immigration advocates are saying those changes announced in a press release are small, and women and children are still being locked up.

Polyane Soares De Oliveira Dos Santos, from Brazil, said during a phone interview Thursday that what she wants most is to be released from the Karnes City Detention Center.

"I really want to be released because I have my family here," Dos Santos said. "I have my kids here and they are away from me."

Dos Santos said she has been locked up for 10 months with her 10-year-old daughter and that even with ICE's announcement on Thursday, she is not hopeful.

"They say they are going to change the thing, but they never change," she said. "It's always the same."

Jonathan Ryan, executive director of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, said detention centers are illegal, which is why a federal judge ordered changes.

"What we are seeing on the part of the government is on the one hand, a real admission they've been doing wrong for a very long time," said Ryan. "But on the other hand, these small offerings are very insufficient."

ICE announced a series of actions to enhance oversight and accountability, while increasing access and transparency. All to ensure its family residential centers continue to serve as safe and humane facilities for families pending the outcome of their immigration proceedings.

"While we routinely review and evaluate our facilities to ensure that we are providing the level of care required by our Family Residential Standards, we understand the unique and sensitive nature of detaining families and we are committed to maintaining the optimal level of care," said ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña. "The measures ICE is announcing reaffirm that understanding and our commitment to ensuring all individuals in our custody are held and treated in a safe, secure and humane manner."

As one of the six actions, ICE will also implement a review process for any families detained beyond 90 days and every 60 days thereafter.

"The judge has demanded action and what the government has given is a press release," said Ryan. "A press release the government filed as evidence in their hearing in a very legal case."

Ryan said Thursday that the only acceptable change is to release the more than 1,000 women and children to their families, women like Dos Santos and her 10-year-old daughter.

"She cries every night," said Dos Santos. "'Mom, when am I going to get out of here? I miss my brothers. I miss my sister.'"

Click here to see ICE's announced actions.

About the Author: