House Dems to visit immigrant detention centers

House Dems to visit immigrant detention centers
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House Democrats, who have called on the Department of Homeland Security to end its family detention program, are planning to visit two centers where illegal immigrants are held in Texas.

Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Reps. Joaquin Castro (Texas), Judy Chu (Calif.), Raul Grijalva (AZ), Luis Gutiérrez (Ill.), Sheila Jackson-Lee (Texas), Zoe Lofgren (Calif.) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (Calif.) will travel next week to the detention centers, which have been criticized for being jail-like facilities in Dilley and Karnes, Texas.

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In addition to limited freedoms and access to healthcare, lawmakers have expressed concerns about the psychological health effects women and children suffer while detained.

In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security last month, 135 House Democrats said the detained population is largely made up of refugees fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries.

Detaining children who have already been victims of abuse, they said, exacerbates the past trauma and can have serious, long-lasting impacts on psychological health. 

The department claims the program is designed to deter other immigrants from entering the country illegally.

In a statement at the time, an agency spokeswoman said the well-being of detained families, particularly children, is of “paramount importance” and that detention centers currently operate in an open environment.