The US Is Locking Up Undocumented Kids With Adults
On Jul 3rd, 2013
Over the past few years, record numbers of children, usually from Mexico or Central America and often traveling alone, have crossed illegally into the United States. From October 2011 to October 2012, some 31,000 juveniles (PDF) were apprehended by the Border Patrol. And according to a new report, more and more of them have landed in immigration detention centers—alongside adults.
Data obtained by the nonprofit National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) shows that the federal government detained at least 1,366 immigrant children for three or more days in 30 adult facilities between 2008 and 2012. The data, secured in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and released Tuesday, also shows that nearly 1,000 were held longer than a week. Five children were detained more than a year, and one was held more than a decade, starting at around age 15.
And these numbers could be the tip of the iceberg: DHS provided the NIJC with data from only 30 of the 200 or so immigration detention centers currently in operation.
“The immigration detention enforcement system is broken,” says Mary Meg McCarthy, the NIJC’s executive director. “If there are 1,300 kids over a period of four years in adult detention facilities, there’s a real problem. Because that’s not what the law says. That’s not what’s supposed to be happening. As a country, we shouldn’t be detaining these kids, period, but especially not in adult facilities.”
Of the immigrant kids housed in adult detention centers, the vast majority of them were 17 years old at the time of detention—though 37 were younger than 15.