With support from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), 136 House Democrats are calling for an end to family detention for illegal immigrants.
In a letter to Department of Homeland Security Sec. Jeh Johnson, the lawmakers — led by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) — decry what they say are “jail-like” secure facilities holding mothers and children who are illegally in the U.S. awaiting the outcome of their immigration cases.
“We believe your Department has heard many of our concerns but has not fully grasped the serious harm being inflicted upon mothers and children in custody. We believe the only solution to this problem is to end the use of family detention,” the letter, dated Wednesday, reads.
The use of family detention centers ramped up last year as a result of the massive influx of illegal immigrants, including unaccompanied minors, to the U.S., largely from Central America.
According to the Democratic lawmakers, the detention facilities are harmful to the children and do not provide enough medical care to those who may need it. They further claim that those who are detained are mostly refugees.
“Detaining mothers and children in jail-like settings is not the answer. We have an opportunity to do the right thing and are confident that DHS has the capacity to honor our Nation’s longstanding commitment both to the protection and well-being of refugee families and to law enforcement and public safety,” the letter reads.
“Children require special protections and should not be placed in jail-like settings,” it adds.