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Will the federal government continue to lock up immigrant women and children?

Fleeing violence in their Central American home countries, during 2013 and 2014, thousands of immigrants crossed illegally into the United States. While the U.S. has long struggled with how to address the many difficult issues related to illegal immigration, the large numbers of women and children crossing the U.S. and Mexican border caught the U.S. government off guard.

In a desperate attempt to slow the flow of illegal immigrants, many of whom were children who were traveling alone, the administration turned to private prison contractors to build and run large family detention centers. With thousands of women and children being detained at three major detention centers throughout the southern U.S., immigration advocates and attorneys have raised concerns about the safety, health and treatment of those who were being detained.

The Obama administration has been sharply criticized for its handling of the Central America immigration crisis and especially for steps it took to lock-up so many already traumatized women and children. In fact, only recently has the administration taken steps to reassess and adjust its position on and plan for dealing with the crisis.

In recent months, officials from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency have hinted that there are plans to close the large prison-like detention centers and open several smaller facilities, each geared towards meeting the needs of a “very specific group of immigrants.” Additionally, reform proposals include provisions that address “legal, educational, health and social services for children;” services that, to date, have been severely lacking.

In fact, conditions at current detention facilities have raised many troubling legal and human rights questions about immigrants’ rights to due process, physical and mental health care services and education. Adding to these concerns are the seemingly arbitrary methods by which the federal government has chosen to target, detain and attempt to deport certain groups of immigrants.

More than ever, individuals who come to the U.S. in hopes of seeking asylum must understand their legal rights. An attorney who handles immigration cases, and specifically those related to the detention and deportation of illegal immigrants, can answer questions and fight to preserve an individual’s rights under U.S. law.

Source: NBC News, “Detaining Immigrant Kids Hasn't Worked. U.S. Wants to Try Something New,” Amanda Sakuma, April 1, 2016

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