There has been an “alarming increase” in the number of infants being held in a federal immigration detention center, which is poorly equipped to provide adequate medical care to very young children, advocacy groups said in a complaint filed Thursday with the Department of Homeland Security.
There were at least nine infants under the age of one detained as of Thursday at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, according to the complaint filed by the American Immigration Council, the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.
At least one of the infants had been held for more than 20 days, apparently in violation of a court-agreement known as the Flores Settlement that says the government cannot hold children in detention centers for more than 20 days.
“I have never seen so many infants of such tender age held in ICE custody in the family detention center,” said Katie Shepherd, national advocacy counsel at the American Immigration Council.
Shepherd managed a program that provided pro-bono legal assistance to detained migrant families at the Dilley facility in 2015 and 2016.
“We regularly see babies over the age of one year, but it’s very rare for us to see infants under one year of age,” Shepherd said. “In the past couple of weeks, we noticed an uptick in the number of infants under the age of 12 months held in ICE custody at the family detention center in Dilley.”
By Daniel González for AZCENTRAL
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