Texas demonstrators rallied outside a Waco jail and detention center on Saturday, demanding better treatment for undocumented immigrants about to be deported.
The facility is a medium security, privately run prison capable of housing about 800 inmates.Two hundred-fifty of those beds are for ice agents to detain illegal immigrants, most of them said to be from El Salvador.
Protestors say immigrants should not be housed with hardened criminals.Dozens of protestors from Dallas and Austin descended on the corrections center in Waco, protesting congressional mandate requiring 34,000 beds a day across the U.S. be used to house illegal immigrants.
Some, like Dallas immigration lawyer Ann Badmus, believe the language in that mandate should make 34,000 beds a day available, and not require them to be full.“The quota should be eliminated because of the concerns that people who are only here, or are only in that system for immigration violations are placed into a prison system where they really don’t belong.”
Protestors say the Jack Harwell Center in Waco lacks adequate medical care, limits visitation and treats detainees like criminals.Nazry Mustakim says he was detained for ten months in 2012 after his green card go revoked.“"I felt like I was treated as a criminal I’ve been to jail before and even the officers when I was in jail didn't mess with me as much as the officers there."
Immigration lawyer Kent McKeever says Mustakim’s story is not uncommon.But he is one of the lucky ones that got to stay in America."The families are being broken up for unfair, unjust and irrational reasons,” said McKeever.“The people we are talking about here are really people who are already in the system, here they are being detained because we do know that they are here illegally and they are going to be put into a court process, but they don't have to be detained because the idea is that they can go home and feed and take care of themselves and so detaining these particular people that are not public safety threats,” says Badmus.“It's actually more costly."
The White House this week requested $3.7 billion dollars to hire more border control agents, build new detention facilities, and transfer immigration judges to the south.
But others like Governor Rick Perry believe there may be another way to deflate this “humanitarian crisis.”"The President of the United States can pick up the phone to the D.O.D. And direct them to send those one thousand National Guard troops because that will send the quickest message that this border is secure and if we start securing the border, all of these issues that are facing us begin to dwindle, they begin to diminish."Governor Perry was speaking primarily about the surge of immigrant children.
Recent figures from customs and border protection show more than 52,000 unaccompanied children below the age of 17 came into the United States since last October.
The cost for caring for those children is about $252 per day, the total cost of care expected to exceed $2 billion.
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