Immigration and Customs Enforcement has a problem.  When they charge people with immigration violations, or when people have asked for asylum but not yet been given a hearing, these people have to be housed somewhere.  Not in actual houses, of course.  But in a facility.  One with bars, and walls, and a few miles of razor wire.  However, a fair number of those in immigration trouble came with kids in tow -- almost as if they were looking for a better life for their family and not intending on being a terrorist threat.  On occasion, these immigrants who had small kids were allowed to stay out of lock-up to take care of their children.  And sometimes, those who had been given this permission failed to show up for the court date.

So what's the appropriate response?  Wait, before you answer that, what's the Republican response.  That's right, they decided to put the children in jail, too.

This facility is a new tool in America’s arsenal to fight the war on terror. It is designed to keep entire families together until their immigration case can be resolved.

This "new tool in the war on terror" consists of a former state prison in Taylor, Texas.  There hasn't been a huge remodel of this place.  There are still cell blocks.  Still concrete rooms with bars in the front.  Still an exposed toilet in the middle of the floor.  Only now there are children sharing the cells.

Media got their first chance to tour the facility today, but as with other federal facilities that have sprung up over the last six years, this wasn't exactly a self-guided tour.

The media was invited to tour the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, at 1001 Welch St. in Taylor. The center is being investigated by the American Civil Liberties Union for alleged human rights violations.

What the media saw was exactly what the government wanted them to see, and nothing else. The tour was very controlled and lasted just over an hour.

Media personnel were not allowed to talk to any of the nearly 400 detainees accused of immigration violations, who represent more than two dozen different countries.

The people the reporters didn't get to talk to currently include 200 children.  

But the facility, a converted high-security prison, is coming under increased criticism. Attorneys for the detainees, many of whom are seeking political asylum, say it is abhorrent that small children, including babies, are being incarcerated.

Naturally, officials are quick to point out that the children are given toys, and access to a library and computer lab -- if only during the day and in view of guards.  And hey, a family was released after their five year old was threatened and yelled at for not standing still during head count.  

They had to do this, right?  What other choice is there?

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Fri Feb 09, 2007 at 06:04 PM PST.

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