The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) together with the American Immigration Council (Council) recently discovered that healthcare workers at a detention center in Dilley, Texas administered adult-strength Hepatitis A vaccinations to about 250 children.
AILA’s Executive Director, Crystal Williams, said, “Volunteer attorneys at Dilley, as well as those at similar detention centers in Karnes, TX, Berks, PA and the previous facility in Artesia, NM, have long noted disturbing patterns of what appears to be inadequate health care for the women and children. This latest permutation is beyond appalling—it is putting children at risk not just for short-term reactions but for unknown long-term risks.”
She adds that the concept of detaining mothers and their children has been frowned upon since its ruling last year, and that just because the center does not have barred windows, does not mean their living conditions are much different from those in an actual prison. The detained children are forced to sleep with the lights on, experience invasive random checks, and were forced into receiving the vaccine at 4:00 am without their mothers even knowing what it was.
“This latest healthcare failure at Dilley is one of many indicators that family detention is just not workable. The Administration has recently acknowledged the need for ‘substantial changes’ to their practice of detaining families. It needs to abandon the effort entirely, and return to a more humane and cost effective system where families are released, on alternatives when necessary, to ensure the safety and well-being of the children. This needs to happen now, before any further damage is done to their physical and mental health,” said Ben Johnson, the Executive Director of the American Immigration Council.
Both AILA and the Council have been working together with CLINIC and RAICES to cater to the unmet needs and welfare of the thousands of women and children detained in the centers in Dilley and Karnes. They have seen first hand how these unsparing conditions have begun taking a toll on childrens’ development and on mothers’ wellbeing, and are determined to help make serving time for these vulnerable populations more humane.