Saturday, March 3, 2007
Imprisoning Immigrant Families
Last week, the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children released a report on the U.S. government's detention of immigrant families, including asylum seekers, in jail-like conditions, a practice notably increased by last year's construction of a 512-bed family detention facility. This expansion of the criminal/penal detention model into the immigration system is disturbing on many levels, not least of which are the international legal ramifications of separating children as young as six from their parents at night, requiring families to eat all meals in under twenty minutes, denying pregnant women adequate prenatal care, and limiting children's education to one hour per day. Perhaps this treatment is not surprising given that the United States has yet to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child; of the 191 U.N. member states, Somalia is the only other country to share this particular distinction. As a party to the Refugee Protocol, however, one might think the United States would pay heed to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees' directive to avoid detaining asylum seekers, particularly women and children. Moreover, UNHCR's proposed alternatives to detention could ensure that the release of detained families would pose little or no risk (except, perhaps, to the bottom line of the Corrections Corporation of America).