Texas Dems Want Stronger Immigrant Detention Oversight

More than 5,000 immigrant children in detention centers

Lawmakers are calling on the state to help with the family separation crisis at the border. Texas Democrats with the Mexican American Legislative Caucus released a number of recommendations last week after putting in time with immigration experts, youth facility operators, health and child welfare advocates, and state agency officials.

Photo by Jana Birchum

Among their suggestions, MALC encourages increased transparency over youth detention facilities, including unannounced site visits from the Health and Human Services Commission, to ensure that basic standards are met and for visits from members of the Texas Legislature. As allegations of abuse and assault in detention centers have crept up, MALC implores HHSC and the Department of Family and Protective Services to rework their allegation response processes and provide better communication with migrant children and families. They’re also requesting the state to supply pro-bono legal representation for all immigrants crossing the border through the nonprofit Texas Access to Justice Foundation. State data shows that there are more than 5,000 unaccompanied immigrant children held in Texas youth detention centers today. Of the 37 state-licensed shelters housing those children, HHSC approved 16 variances that allow those facilities to operate above their initially approved capacity.

“The majority of Americans want to see these children reunited with their families. Since the onset of family separation, elected officials, advocates, and concerned citizens have collectively voiced the urgent need for legislative solutions that bring an end to child imprisonment, family trauma, and other abuses,” said MALC Working Group Chair Rep. Mary González, D-El Paso. During a recent press conference at the Capitol, González hoped Republicans would support the plan, saying “everyone can get behind the idea that we don’t want children to be abused.” We’ll probably find out soon; it’s likely some of the recommendations may translate into filed bills this upcoming legislative session.

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Immigration, Mexican American Legislative Caucus, Health and Human Services Commission, Texas Access to Justice Foundation, Mary González

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