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Rep. Chu Warns of Lingering Damage Caused By Family Detention

June 24, 2015
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – On Tuesday, Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) finished a two-day tour of the immigrant family detention centers at Karnes and Dilley in Texas. Rep. Chu visited the detention centers as part of a delegation of eight Members of Congress. Despite an 18 year old settlement, Flores v. Meese, that requires children be held in the “least restrictive environment,” the use of prison-like family detention facilities has increased over the last year. Rep. Chu released the following statement: 

“My visits to the Karnes and Dilley detention centers only confirmed what I along with my colleagues in Congress, experts, advocates, and doctors have been saying for a while now: there is no way to detain families humanely. Research and experience have shown that detention of any length has a significant impact on a child’s physical and mental health. And for women who are fleeing violence and abuse, this type of detention can retraumatize them. We saw the negative and lasting effects of family detention after the embarrassing policy of Japanese internment during World War II, but unfortunately, our government failed to learn any lessons. Instead, we are recreating some of the worst aspects of those years. When I saw how isolated and barren the Dilley Detention Center was, I was struck by the similarities to the Japanese Internment camps.

“On this trip, I spoke with families who have experienced unimaginable violence and are only continuing to suffer in detention. I spoke to a woman who was forced into the drug cartels and raped along with her 15-year old daughter. She escaped the cartels and fled to the U.S. with her daughter, but has been in detention for months because she cannot afford the $10,000 bond. Meanwhile, her daughter had to be taken to the medical unit for threatening to commit suicide. This story is all too familiar at Dilley and Karnes. Our asylum laws are meant to protect families like these, instead the policy to detain them punishes them for seeking help and makes it almost impossible for them to succeed in their legal claims.

“And at Dilley, I was astounded when we stepped out into the main yard to see hundreds of desperate women and children demonstrating and chanting for their freedom.  They had used their pillow cases and bed sheets to make picket signs, because they had nothing else.  In fact, I will never forget one five-year-old boy who held one such pillow case in front of him saying, ‘I am not a criminal.  Please give me my freedom.’ As we got closer, they surrounded us, and each one of them had tears streaming down their faces as they pleaded for help.

“America is better than this. It is time to end family detention and allow these women and children, the vast majority of whom have legal claims to be here, to await their hearings with family and loved ones. I hope that the stories my colleagues and I documented on our trip will help to put an end to this cruel practice.

Earlier today, Rep. Chu joined the other seven members of the delegation - Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (MD), and Reps. Joaquin Castro (TX), Raul Grijalva (AZ), Luis V. Gutiérrez (IL), Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX), Zoe Lofgren (CA), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA) - at a press conference to share what they saw. You can listen to audio of the conference here.

Video footage of South Texas Family Residential Center – Dilley, TX | June 23, 2015

Available for viewing and download at:

Additional Video Footage:


Pictures of South Texas Family Residential Center and Karnes County Residential Center | June 22-23, 2015

Available for viewing and download here