Sunday, September 2, 2007

Detention of foreign children relaxed

So the American government treats Americans like shit. And it's wrong. But it's also wrong to treat foreign subjects to horrors that any human rights investigators would find unacceptable - especially when the detainees are children who have done nothing wrong.

Not long ago, a plane flying from Canada to Guyana made an emergency landing in Puerto Rico when a passenger suffered a heart attack. When the aircraft was grounded in Puerto Rico (a U.S. external territory), a family that lived in Canada that was on that flight was held for 5 days before being sent to T. Don Hutto Family Detention Center in Taylor, Texas. The parents were from Iran and had fled to Canada after their home country's right-wing government tortured them. Their 9-year-old son was a Canadian citizen born in Toronto.

This peculiar detention helped expose the bleak world that exists behind the razor wire of the Texas center. It's an immigration holding facility, but it behaves more like a penitentiary. In fact, this privately owned, for-profit facility used to be a state prison. The family was stuffed into uniforms and confined in tiny cells.

Now, although it's an immigration holding facility, the family wasn't even trying to immigrate to or even visit the United States. They just happened to find themselves in Puerto Rico because of an emergency landing.

The facility had already been criticized for detaining children in bad conditions. Hundreds of children spent months in these dehumanizing conditions awaiting deportation. One child even had her teddy bear confiscated by the guards.

Is this how America wants the rest of the world to see it?

But now there's good news. The ACLU got involved on behalf of 26 children, some of whom were held at Hutto Family Detention Center for a year, and it just won a major settlement against the center. Almost all the families in the case were being held there awaiting rulings on asylum claims that they made. But now all 26 children have been released! And because of the settlement, children who are still there have to be given more time outdoors and more education, and the guards can no longer punish them by separating them from their parents. The children also get better food and better medical care. They can also keep paper and pens in their rooms - something the facility previously denied them (for some arbitrary reason). This is a step in the right direction, but hopefully the policy towards detained children is relaxed further.

It's a shame that some officials in the ruling regime actually defended the substandard conditions at the facility, but that just goes to show how immoral they are.


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