Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Landmark Settlement in Hutto Detention Case

Dozens of children released from detention as a result of litigation

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) yesterday announced a settlement with the federal government to improve conditions for immigrant children and their families at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas.

ACLU and the University of Texas law school immigration clinic filed lawsuits in March against federal officials on behalf of 26 immigrant children between the ages of 1 and 17 years old detained at the center with their parents. Requirements of the settlement include eliminating the "count" system that forced families to stay in their cells 12 hours a day; installing privacy curtains around toilets; providing a full-time, on-site pediatrician; and improving the nutritional value of food.

Emotional Release for Immigrant Children

For twelve-year old Andrea Restrepo from Colombia, the settlement means the end to a nightmare. "I am trying to forget everything about Hutto. I feel free. It was a nightmare," said Restrepo, who was held for nearly a year in a small cell in the Hutto Detention Center with her mother and 9-year-old sister.

Restrepo was among the final six children listed as plaintiffs released days before the finalized settlement. Since the ACLU filed the original lawsuits in March 2007, all of the children represented by the ACLU and co-counsel have been released. The children, who are now pursuing their asylum claims, live with U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family members.

"We are thrilled at what we were able to accomplish through litigation and mediation," said Lisa Graybill, Legal Director of the ACLU of Texas. "But the fact remains that our government should not be locking up innocent children — period. That is not what America is about. It is time for Congress to intervene and end the policy of family detention."

The settlement between the ACLU and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requires the approval of United States District Court Judge Sam Sparks, who previously called the children's detention in "substandard conditions" an "urgent problem." Watch a video about the Hutto detention center here.

Detention of Children For Profit Continues

"Despite the tremendous improvements at Hutto, the facility remains a former medium security prison managed by the Corrections Corporation of America, a for-profit adult corrections company," the ACLU said in a statement. "The ACLU remains adamant that detaining immigrant children at Hutto is inappropriate, and calls on Congress to compel DHS to find humane alternatives for managing families whose immigration status is in limbo."

Learn more about how you can take action by visiting the Detention Watch Networks's website at : www.detentionwatchnetwork.org.

To read the full settlement click here