What’s Changed for Immigrants in Detention?


October 22, 2012

After 9/11, undocumented immigrants waiting for deportation hearings were locked up in detention centers, some of which were run by private prison companies.

Last fall’s Lost in Detention, a joint investigation by FRONTLINE and the Investigative Reporting Workshop found disturbing reports of maggot-filled food, and verbal and sexual abuse by guards at one such facility, the Willacy Detention Center in south Texas.

What happened there was so disturbing that the Department of Homeland Security launched 13 special criminal investigations.

Willacy has since been converted to a detention facility only for immigrants with criminal convictions, and the Obama administration has called for an overhaul of the detention system. But how much has changed for the rest of those in detention?

In a radio segment for NPR, correspondent Maria Hinojosa shows just how difficult reform can be, through interviews with former detainees, abuse victims, and whistleblowers.

Listen to the full report here.

Sarah Childress

Sarah Childress, Series Senior Editor, FRONTLINE



In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.

blog comments powered by Disqus

More Stories

What Has Happened to Boeing Since the 737 Max Crashes
Since 346 people were killed in two crashes involving Boeing 737 Max planes in 2018 and 2019, the airplane maker has faced a number of changes. Here, a brief look.
September 14, 2021
In 737 Max Crashes, Boeing Pointed to Pilot Error — Despite a Fatal Design Flaw
Watch a scene from ‘Boeing’s Fatal Flaw,’ a documentary on the 737 Max plane crashes that killed 346 people.
September 14, 2021
Minneapolis’ bloody summer puts city on pace for most violent year in a generation
A surge in gunshots in some areas have put the city on pace for its most violent year in a generation.
September 11, 2021
From Sept. 11 to Jan. 6: How the Capitol Insurrection Was ‘The Logical Endpoint of the 9/11 Era’
Watch a scene from the opening of "America After 9/11," a two-hour FRONTLINE documentary that examines how the U.S. response to Sept. 11 ushered in an era of fear, mistrust and division.
September 7, 2021