Eight Democratic members of Congress flew into south Texas on Monday to see the detention camps holding thousands of illegal aliens. Lead by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, they visited one camp in Karnes City and another near Dilley, and came away with stark impressions.
The group called on President Obama to immediately stop the detention of families at the three facilities in south Texas, saying it is “tantamount to imprisoning them”
Talking with the San Antonio Express-News, the representatives said that the families are virtually imprisoned, with some being locked up for more than a year while awaiting a hearing on their immigration cases.
This visit was a follow-up to a letter sent to the President last month, signed by 136 members of Congress, urging him to stop the detention of families across the border. In Texas alone, more than 3,000 people are being held
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, of California, said that detaining families is “the most expensive possible alternative,” Lofgren added that there are other ways to ensure women seeking asylum show up for their immigration hearings.
In a news conference at his office in San Antonio Congressman Joaquin Castro said “We believe that these women and children should not be kept in these detention camps, that they are people who come here seeking asylum,” And Castro added “They didn’t try to evade Border Patrol, they presented themselves at the U.S.-Mexico border. That they are not hardened criminals, but by keeping them in these places we are treating them that way.”
Another member of the group, Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, chimed in: “The powerful organized criminal groups the women are fleeing are “worse than any dictator.”
Gutierrez recounted the story of women he met who said she had been in detention for almost a year. Her son had his fourth birthday inside the detention center. The Congressman railed against that; “A quarter of that child’s life has been in a detention center, so all that kid knows, those four walls in that detention center,”
Keeping in the mind that Democrats of an earlier era roundly criticized President George H.W. Bush’s call for “A thousand points of light” which focused attention to volunteer and faith based groups, Congressman Castro also praised San Antonio-area nonprofits and volunteer organizations that have offered services to the detainees. The legislators said alternatives to the detention centers that would ensure the women show up to their court dates include ankle bracelets and programs with faith-based groups.
The Detention Camps were an alternative to ICE policy of a little more than a year ago when the federal government began detaining families after the tsunami last year of illegal immigrants from Central America crossed the border in the Rio Grande Valley.
Immigration officials have said they began detaining families because women with children were being caught at the border, then released at South Texas bus stations with notices to appear in immigration court for deportation proceedings, and few ever did.
The three active DHS/ICE detention camps in south Texas are a former oil crew camp, now leased to ICE for use as a family detention center near Dilley, in Pearsall, just off I-35 and in Karnes County, on the west side of Karnes City. When completed, the total capacity of the three sites will be approximately 5,000 people.
Rob Milford is a news contributor to Breitbart Texas. You can follow him on Facebook.