June 21, 2018 / 10:58 PM / 3 months ago

CORRECTED-Where are the beds? Questions surround Trump's plan to hold families in detention

 (Corrects Murdza's title in the second to last paragraph)
    By Reade Levinson, Yeganeh Torbati and Kristina Cooke
    June 21 (Reuters) - One child stopped eating and fell into a
depression. Another who could previously walk on his own now
asks his mother to carry him everywhere. A third child started
biting other children.
    These are the experiences of children who have spent just
three weeks at a temporary family immigration detention at the
South Texas Family Detention Center in Dilley, Texas, attorneys
and volunteers who work at the center told Reuters.
    The Dilley site is one of only three in the United States
designed to hold parents and children together in immigration
detention. Some of those who have visited the center say such
cases illustrate the emotional problems that can arise from
holding families in detention.
    "No child or family unit with a child should ever be in
detention," said Alan Shapiro, co-founder of Terra Firma, which
promotes immigrant children's health. He said he has seen
children at several facilities show developmental delays and
become anxious and withdrawn. 
    The Dilley facility has playrooms, indoor gym equipment,
toys, books and other amenities to provide "a safe and
appropriate environment" for immigrant mothers and children,
said Amanda Gilchrist, a spokeswoman for private prison company
CoreCivic        . 
    Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which provides medical
and mental health care at Dilley, said they take "very seriously
the health, safety and welfare of those in our care."
   President Donald Trump issued an executive order on Wednesday
aimed at ending his controversial policy of separating children
from parents caught entering the country illegally. Under the
order, which is likely to be challenged in court, families will
now be detained together for the duration of their criminal and
immigration proceedings. The latter can take months or even
years to complete. 
    Holding families indefinitely could create a new logistical
headache for the Trump administration. Immigrant families are
currently housed in facilities in Pennsylvania and Texas that
have a total capacity of about 3,300 beds, according to ICE.
Those are now at 79 percent capacity, ICE said.
    Given the numbers of families crossing the border illegally,
the government will quickly run out of beds at those facilities,
the only ones in the country set up to house families. Last
month, U.S. Border Patrol arrested more than 9,400 family
members crossing the southern border illegally.
   (For a graphic of current family detention facilities, click
here: tmsnrt.rs/2Ia5W3y)    
    Wednesday's order directs the Pentagon to "take all legally
available measures" to provide facilities available to house
immigrant families, including constructing new facilities if
necessary.
    The Department of Health and Human Services has already
completed assessments of three facilities in Texas - Fort Bliss,
Goodfellow Air Force base, and Dyess Air Force base - as
potential areas to house migrants. It was due to carry out a
formal assessment of Little Rock Air Force base in Jacksonville,
Arkansas on Thursday, said Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Davis, a
Pentagon spokesman.  
        
    DANGERS OF RUSHING
    Michelle Brané of the Women's Refugee Commission, a New York
based advocacy group, said that while the Texas and Pennsylvania
facilities are not currently full, "if they do start sending
everybody there, they will fill up."
    She said temporary facilities could be set up at military
bases "fairly quickly" but noted that a previous attempt by the
Obama administration to rush the construction of a family
detention center had resulted in a facility that was "not even
close to being compliant" with child standards.
    It could take up to three months for the government or its
private sector contractors to build proper facilities that are
safe, healthy and provide necessary services to detained
families, said Daniel Stageman, a scholar on immigration
detention at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New
York. 
    A spokeswoman for GEO Group        , which operates the
Karnes family detention center in Texas, said their company
works to "provide a safe and humane environment for those in our
care."
    The executive director of the Berks County Residential
Center, the family detention center in Pennsylvania, did not
respond to a request for comment. 
    Attorneys and medical professionals who have spent time at
such facilities say even short-term detention can traumatize
vulnerable children. 
    A 2016 report by a Department of Homeland Security advisory
committee strongly recommended the government discontinue the
"general use" of family detention, citing insufficient access to
legal counsel, medical and mental health care.
    A June 2017 DHS inspector general's report, however, found
that the family detention facilities were "clean,
well-organized, and efficiently run," based on unannounced spot
inspections in July 2016.
    Katy Murdza, who coordinates the Dilley Pro Bono Project and
works five days a week at the facility, said the mental strains
of detention were already apparent among families who had been
detained at the facility for the past three weeks.
    "We see 2-year olds picking up phones from the wall and
saying, 'Dad? Dad?' They see a male guard and ask where their
dad is," she said.

    
 (Reporting by Reade Levinson in New York, Yeganeh Torbati in
Washington, and Kristina Cooke in San Francisco. Additional
reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington.
Editing by Ross Colvin)
  
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