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The Children in the Prison Aren't Wearing Uniforms, They Just All Have the Same Clothes

Earlier this year, the news media took the guided tour of the T Don Hutto prison, which holds children while they and their parents await their immigration hearings. Media members were allowed to film a few areas, but not allowed to interview anyone imprisoned there. But they were allowed to talk to someone from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) about what a good idea it is to lock up entire families.

Strangely, the ICE spokespeople (and the ICE website) say that the children being held at the Hutto prison are not forced to wear "prison garb," but in the video (carefully shot so that no faces are shown), it's plain that all the kids are wearing the same clothing --- the medical-style "scrubs" that are familiar to us from other prison settings. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement web page for Hutto explains, "Residents are provided with t-shirts, sweat shirts and/or medical-style scrubs. (“Jail uniforms” are not worn)." So even though 400 people who are confined there wear the same clothes, and they're not the same clothes as the people who work there, we shouldn't call them "uniforms."

Not that the clothes are the worst part of this, compared to the reports from the some of the parents and children in the prison. You can read the profiles of some of the families imprisoned at Hutto at the ACLU website. Parents have reported being separated from their kids (in separate cells), the lack of access to medical care, and that some of their children are not eating enough (due to short mealtimes and poor quality food), so have lost weight. One recurring theme is staff threatening the children with being separated from their parents if they don't behave. Not only does it sound like a prison, it sounds like the worst kind of prison. How much longer can this go on?

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The ORR must ensure that in the event that a child is detained, it is only for the shortest time possible and in the least restrictive setting possible, in a facility that is appropriate to the child’s needs and complies with both international and U.S. standards. This goal is severely hindered by the fact that the ORR has inherited a detention system that reflects the law enforcement culture of the INS, an agency long criticized for routinely placing immigration control above the best interests of the child. The entire contracted network of at least 115 facilities used by the former INS to house unaccompanied children (including secure juvenile jails housing approximately one-third of children) has been transferred to the ORR. This means that unaccompanied children still remain in detention in facilities that AI’s findings demonstrate fail to meet international and U.S. standards.