Advocates file complaint over detained immigrant child
By ANABELLE GARAY, Associated Press
8-year-old girl was separated from her mother for four days in detention facility meant to keep families together
DALLAS — Immigrant advocates have filed complaints over an 8-year-old girl who was separated from her pregnant mother by immigration authorities and left without her for four days at a detention center established to hold families together.
Attorneys with the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law sent a complaint on Monday to the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees detention of immigrants. They also made a complaint to the Texas Department of Protective Services on Nov. 29, said Barbara Hines, a law professor who helps oversee the clinic.
After being caught in South Texas in August, the child and her mother were sent to the T. Don Hutto Family Residential Facility, a former Central Texas prison where noncriminal immigrant families are held while their cases are processed. They were awaiting a decision on a bid for asylum, which they eventually lost.
When agents attempted to deport the woman in October, she wouldn’t comply. As a result, she was considered a high risk for disruptive behavior and moved to a South Texas detention center in Pearsall on Oct. 18., according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Guards and ICE staff watched over the child for four days and the pair were reunited when they were deported, ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said.
ICE officials have previously said detaining families at the facility is meant to help “children remain with parents, their best caregivers” while they are processed for deportation. They also told the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services that parents would be at the facility with their children and would be responsible for their care, so state regulation wasn’t needed.
But if the state’s child care licensing division receives a complaint indicating child care is being provided, it could investigate, said Patrick Crimmins, a spokesman for the Department of Family and Protective Services.
As of Monday afternoon, the child care licensing division had received no complaints about the facility. Complaints made to Child Protective Services about a child being abused or neglected are confidential by state law, so officials could not say if one was received or not, Crimmins said.
The Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at DHS is charged with reviewing and assessing complaints. If deemed appropriate, some complaints may be forwarded to other divisions of DHS or other government agencies.