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Judge In Texas Blocks Detention Center From Being Licensed As ‘Child Care’

A playground surrounded by cottages that will house immigrants at a new family immigration detention center in Dilley, Texas, on Monday, Dec. 15, 2014. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/WILL WEISSERT
A playground surrounded by cottages that will house immigrants at a new family immigration detention center in Dilley, Texas, on Monday, Dec. 15, 2014. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/WILL WEISSERT

On Wednesday, a Texas district judge prevented the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) from issuing a child care license to a controversial immigration detention center used primarily to detain asylum-seeking families from Central America.

Judge Karin Crump’s temporary injunction will prevent the 2,400-bed facility in Dilley, Texas from receiving a child care license until a full hearing in September to determine which agency can license the state’s two detention centers, which are used to detain mothers and children on behalf of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

Under a federal contract, private prison companies operate three family detention facilities in Texas and Pennsylvania to detain Central American moms and kids who are waiting to find out whether they’ll be allowed to stay in the U.S. or whether they’ll be deported back to their home countries. The Corrections Corporation of America operates the facility in Dilley.

Last year, a federal judge ruled that family detention centers holding children must get licenses, or risk having to release the children held there.

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But advocates have widely condemned plans to issue child care licenses to detention facilities — which are plagued by accusations of neglect and abuse — saying that represents a “significant departure” from the state agency’s mission of protecting children.

Texas Officials Want Controversial Family Detention Centers To Be Labeled As ‘Child Care’ CentersImmigration by CREDIT: AP Photo/Eric Gay Texas state officials are moving ahead with a proposal to license…thinkprogress.org“Family detention camps are prisons; they are not childcare facilities. Slapping a license on the facilities will not change that fact,” Bob Libal, executive director of the immigrant advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, which is a plaintiff in the case, said in a press statement.

Although Texas state officials can continue to detain immigrant families, Crump’s order prohibits children from being housed with unrelated adults in the same room, the Houston Chronicle reported. Currently, immigrants who are of mixed gender are allowed to room together and children can sleep in the same room as strangers.

As part of her order, Crump cited sexual abuse allegations by a plaintiff who said that her daughter was inappropriately touched by another woman sharing the same room, the Texas Observer reported.

“We are glad the court heard our concerns today about the damage that family detention does to mothers and their children and how lowering standards to issue licenses to these facilities only exacerbates that harm,” Libal said.

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Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has received thousands of pages of comments in opposition to granting child care licenses to detention centers. Nonetheless, another facility located in Karnes City, Texas received a temporary child care license last month.