The Artesia detention center here in New Mexico may have closed at the end of last year, but serious issues remain and they require action, particularly as it appears that the Obama Administration is in flagrant violation of international law – to say nothing of human decency.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is on record testifying to the U.S. Senate that detention policies to which asylum-seekers are subject are being used as “an aggressive deterrent strategy,” and he has made the same claim to the press. This is an open, and even boastful, violation of the 1951 Refugee Convention.
In These Times offers a fresh account of the conditions at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, which replaced Artesia. The author is an Arizona resident who did some volunteer legal-aid work at the center, named John Washington. By his and numerous other accounts the conditions which were the subject of much controversy in 2014 continue at the new center.
Just a few of the outstanding issues are:
- Flagrant violation of the 1951 Refugee Convention in the use of harsh detention policies as a deterrent to unauthorized immigration.
- Fast-tracking of deportations endangering families with legitimate claims · Prohibitive bonds lead to extended periods of incarceration
- Conditions within Dilley prompt many families to drop their claims, which is a violation of their right to seek asylum
- Denials of due process, lack of access to legal representation and adequate translation
- Reports of people being kettled in cabins with strangers and deprived of privacy and dignity
- Harsh and punitive conditions at Border Patrol cells leading to illness and psychological distress for families including children
- Dilley is an enterprise that derives profit from prolonged incarceration of these prisoners (and calling them prisoners is only honest). This creates a perverse incentive.
This is not an improvement over the conditions at Artesia. This is an obscenity that tarnishes any fabric of national honor. It cannot be ignored. How will we address it?