Thursday, September 20, 2007

San Francisco muralist raises awareness on Hutto

Hutto Detention Facility: Local activist devotes mural to detained children David Antonio Carini, Jul 27, 2007 A Mission District activist has painted a mural in hopes of drawing attention to the abuse of immigrant children at a detention facility in Texas.

“I hope to inform and encourage action from my neighbors against the ICE intimidation on the streets,” said Pati Sanchez who devoted the mural to the dislocated children and families at the center. Clippings of the faces and words of the children are superimposed over the red paint scattered wall outside Sanchez’ apartment on Alabama and 20th Streets.

About 200 children captured through Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids are being held at the T. Don Hutto detention facility in Taylor, Texas.

They wear prison garb and are confined to their cell for 12 hours a day, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). They do not receive proper schooling or adequate medical treatment.

“There’s no pediatrician. Nurses don’t care if babies are sick. They treat us like we’re nothing,” said Egle Baubonyte, 15-year-old detainee, in a statement filed against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on March 1, 2007.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit on March 6, 2007 against DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff for the inhumane treatment of 17 minors at the facility. Ten children have been released to families in the U.S. and Canada, but others like Suzanna Rodriguez Blanco, 12, remain. Her crime is seeking political asylum in the U.S. after the assassination of her father, a professor in Venezuela who vigorously opposed Hugo Chavez.

The mistreatment of minors at Hutto and other facilities is illegal. According to the 1997 Flores vs. Meese settlement, child detainees should be released promptly to family members, kept in the least restrictive setting possible, and guaranteed basic health and education.

In an October 23 affidavit, a pregnant Nicaraguan woman claimed that she was not given a prenatal exam for months. She was later diagnosed with a kidney infection and was not prescribed any medication, but instead was told to drink more water.

“Detention centers are a money making industry that inflict trauma and abuse onto incarcerated parents and children,” said Sanchez who hopes to illuminate a tolerant public on the actual purpose of these facilities.

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) owns the 512-bed Hutto facility along with several other immigrant detention centers. ICE provides publicly traded CCA about $2.8 million each month for operating expenses, according to the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA). The number of immigrant beds reserved by ICE in for-profit CCA prisons has increased 350 percent since 1994.

CCA stock rose 750 percent in the last five years, and as a result of numerous anti-immigration laws and budgets passed by the Bush Administration, ICE raids have grown exponentially in the same time period. The raids have disrupted about 20,000 people since May 2006, of which many are children.

“It’s like a dream to come home,” Canadian born Kevin Yourdkhani, 9, told the Toronto Star. “That place was horrible. I cried and screamed every day. I can’t wait to go back to school.”

On April 10, a Texas federal court found that the ACLU is highly likely to prevail in the trial against the Hutto facility. There are several detention facilities like Hutto and CCA plans to open more in the next few months. ♦

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