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Immigrant women allege abuse, poor care at U.S. detention centers

BY   August 26, 2015 at 2:02 PM EDT
An exterior photo shows a U.S. government detention facility in rural Karnes County, about 60 miles southeast of San Antonio, Texas July 31, 2014 for mothers recently arriving from Central America with children. Photo by REUTERS/Jim Forsyth

An exterior photo shows a U.S. government detention facility in rural Karnes County, about 60 miles southeast of San Antonio, Texas July 31, 2014 for mothers recently arriving from Central America with children. Photo by REUTERS/Jim Forsyth

Thousands of the child migrants and refugees that came to the U.S. from Central America last year in an unprecedented wave are now in long-term holding facilities. Last year, at least 60,000 so-called “family units”, usually mothers with small children, entered the U.S. illegally, according to the government. Most were from Central America, many fleeing spikes in violence in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

Now, 1,400 immigrant mothers and their children are being held in three facilities, two in Karnes and Dilley, Texas, near San Antonio, and a third in Berks, Pennsylvania.

Just last week, a Nashville attorney filed a tort claim on behalf of five immigrant mothers held in these facilities. The women seek millions in damages from the U.S. government, for what they say is psychological and physical harm they suffered as a result of their detention.

For this week’s Shortwave podcast, we talk to Barbara Hines, co-director of the immigration law center at the University of Texas for more on these holding facilities.

This piece is part of a series of episodes we’re doing this summer on last year’s migrant crisis. In June, we re-visited the story of an 11-year-old boy who came to the U.S. during last year’s massive influx of child migrants from Central America. Last month, we talked about how Mexico has toughened its Southern border patrols with help from the U.S., slowing the number of migrants and refugees.

Find more Shortwave with P.J. Tobia podcasts here.

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