Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Texas State Legislature Considers Resolution Calling for Alternatives to Family Detention

Signalling a nation-wide sentiment that times are changing in immigration policy, State Representative Elliot Naishtat has signed on as a co-author of HCR 95, originally filed by Representative Anchia (Dallas area)! Special thanks to both authors for their support for finding cost-effective and family-appropriate alternatives to family detention.

Residents of Texas: Please take a minute to call, write, or personally ask your state senators and reps to support this resolution. To find out who your reps are, type your address into the online form here.

HCR 95 reads:

WHEREAS, The Texas portion of the border between the United States and Mexico comprises more than half of the nearly 2,000-mile boundary between the two countries; as a result of this proximity, the State of Texas is uniquely aware of the importance of the border to the security of the nation as a whole and sensitive to the impact of immigration on the economic and social well-being of both countries; and

WHEREAS, The Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security estimates the costs of detaining undocumented immigrants to be $1.7 billion annually, and current research indicates that detaining immigrant and asylum-seeking families does not deter illegal immigration; and

WHEREAS, In 2006, Homeland Security re-opened the T. Don Hutto Residential Facility in Taylor, Texas, operated by private prison firm Corrections Corporation of America, for the purpose of detaining immigrant and asylum-seeking families who are awaiting immigration proceedings; Of the up to 250 individuals detained in the facility's family unit, at least half are children; and

WHEREAS, Children who have had no decisive role in their migration or flight should not be exposed to unnecessary trauma, and should not be detained in a regimented facility run by a for-profit prison corporation with significant restrictions on their liberty while their parents await immigration proceedings; and

WHEREAS, The United States House and Senate committees on appropriations has each expressed concern about children of families in immigrant detention centers, and has stated that family detention should be the last alternative and not the first; and

WHEREAS, Studies have shown high rates of immigration court appearances for people in supervised release programs; A valid alternative to detaining immigrant families would be to release and reunite these children and their parents but monitor them under supervised release programs, thereby reducing the emotional consequences to young children; and

WHEREAS, Supervised release programs cost American taxpayers significantly less than detention; Considering the long-term consequences of family detention for children and the nation's economic well-being, every possible alternative to family detention should be examined, considered, and exhausted before such action is taken; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the 81st Legislature of the State of Texas hereby respectfully request that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security consider all alternatives to the detention of immigrant and asylum-seeking families with children; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That the Texas secretary of state forward official copies of this resolution to the president of the United States, the speaker of the house of representatives and the president of the senate of the United States Congress, all members of the Texas delegation to the congress, and the secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security, with the request that this resolution be officially entered in the Congressional Record as a memorial to the Congress of the United States of America.