House Dems press DHS to end family detention

House Dems press DHS to end family detention
© Getty Images

House Democrats are calling on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to end its illegal immigrant family detention program.

In 2014, the DHS started holding immigrant families in prison-like detention facilities amid an influx of 60,000 families arriving at the Mexican border.


On Thursday, lawmakers, led by Democratic Reps. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), Luis Gutiérrez (Ill.), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (Calif.), voiced concerns over inhumane conditions at these U.S. facilities in Berks County, Pa.; Dilley, Texas; and Karnes, Texas.

In addition to limited freedoms and access to healthcare, the members said women and children are suffering psychological health effects from being detained while waiting for their cases to be adjudicated in immigration courts.

Though the DHS has made improvements at these facilities in access to water, healthcare and time outside for children to play, Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) said none of these can make the system right. 

“It’s wrong, it’s a waste of money, it’s unnecessary, it’s inhumane and it’s un-American,” he said. “We must change it.”

Speaking with the help of an interpreter, Maria Rose Lopez said her 9 year-old son, Yoandri, threatened to jump off the roof while they were detained for six months at the Karnes County Residential Center.

“Just like my son, a lot of children told their mothers they wanted to commit suicide because they had been here so long,” she said. 

Lopez had fled from Honduras for the U.S. to escape severe domestic violence that included rape at knifepoint.

“We came here seeking protection,” she said, “We were running away from the many different problems, and they shouldn’t criminalize us for seeking protection.”