Indefinite Detention? That'll Set Those Damned Kids Straight.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

What this photo of the T. Don Hutto detention center doesn't adequately communicate is the smell of urine and fear.

This month brings some interesting and troubling tidbits on our favorite immigrant detention center, the T. Don Hutto Family Residential Facility -- which, as you might recall, is the Taylor jail where immigrant families fleeing repressive regimes are taken and held. It’s one of just two facilities nationwide that actually holds children, and it garnered lots of bad publicity last year, when a Palestinian family living in Richardson revealed the conditions there before being told by a visiting immigration judge to get out of the country immediately last August.

Jorge Bustamante -- the U.N.’s special rapporteur who was denied entry to the secretive place last year while investigating complaints of arbitrary detention, substandard conditions and separated families -- has finally released his report on the treatment of migrants in the United States. And it’s not exactly glowing. He writes that of the 230,000 immigrants detained in the U.S. -- more than three times the number that were being held a decade ago -- many are subject to indefinite detention, poor conditions and lack of due process rights. Not surprisingly, the Bush administration wasn’t happy with Bustamante’s assessment.

Also, earlier this month The New Yorker ran an extensive piece on Hutto, which included these disturbing details:

Last March, an immigration lawyer named Griselda Ponce testified before the U.S. District Court in Austin about conditions at Hutto, and told of an occasion when the five- or six-year-old daughter of a woman she was interviewing had to go to the rest room. The captain on duty told the girl that she could not do so during a head count. Ponce said that the girl made “six or seven requests,” and was rebuffed each time; after about fifteen minutes, the girl “smelled of urine.”

Children were regularly woken up at night by guards shining lights into their cells. They were roused each morning at five-thirty. Kids were not allowed to have stuffed animals, crayons, pencils, or pens in their cells. And they were not allowed to take the pictures they had made back to their cells and hang them up. When Hutto opened as an immigration-detention center, children attended school there only one hour a day. Detainees, including children, wore green or blue prison-issue scrubs …

Detainees said that when parents or children broke rules guards threatened them with separation from their children. Kevin Yourdkhani, at the prompting of one of Hines’s law students, wrote a brief description of one such occasion. “I was in my bed and my dad came to fix my bed,” he wrote. “When the police came and saw my dad in the room, he said, ‘If He comes and see my dad again in my room His going to put my mom in a siprate jail and my dad in a sipate jail and me a foster kid.’ I cried and cried so much that I lost my energy. I went to sleep. I felt If I will be siprated I can never see my parents again, and I will get step-parents and they will hurt me or maybe they will kill me."

So, parents, if nothing else now you know where to send your kids when they misbehave. Forget time-out. Just ship the little buggers off to Taylor. --Megan Feldman