Sunday, February 25, 2007

Two groups compare immigration detention centers to prisons

This is an article from the New York Times that speaks to a similar cause as the last post. A report prepared by the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services states that women at the Hutto center in Texas received inadequate prenatal care and that children received only one hour of schooling a day. At both centers, children as young as 6 were separated from their parents, and separation of families and the threats of separation were used as disciplinary tools.

The study praised the Berks center for providing adequate educational opportunities and allowing families to participate in field trips and outdoor recreation time. But it says both centers are modeled on prisons, even though they hold people who are fleeing persecution or stand accused of violating civil immigration laws, not criminal codes.

This brings us to an important question: how do we think the government should draw a distinction between immigration detainees (who may or may not have criminal charges against them) and criminals? Do we even think drawing this distinction is necessary?

1 comment:

IBA0505 said...

I think you raise an important point here that we've touched upon briefly in the past. The first reaction I get from my friends when I tell them I'm visiting a detainee in the prison is a negative one, because prison means criminal, right? Even the guards don't seem to draw this distinction between detainee and criminal. When I went into the prison the other day, the officer said, "Ma'am, please sit on the other side of the table. This way I can grab him if he tries anything." I heard him laughing with his friends over this comment. While I appreciate their regard for my safety, the tone of his comment said a lot.

Just like Dr. D. said in the beginning, everyone wants the "perfect" detainee with a sparkling clean record, but if we don't get that, should it really make a difference? Should the fact that a person has wronged in the past impact his or her basic human rights in the future? These questions get blurry when the person at hand is not a US citizen.