Things That Matter

One Woman’s Investigation Revealed That Hundreds Of Migrant Teens Are Being Held In Prison-Like Conditions

One of the most criticized government agencies during the Trump presidency has been the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, which is in charge of putting immigration laws into practice. With the current administration’s hard stance on undocumented migrants, ICE has terrorized (believe us, we don’t use this word lightly) hundreds of undocumented migrants and their families with protocols that are veiled in secrecy and that seem to be punitive. From families being separated to migrant women being transferred to undisclosed facilities, ICE’s policies seem to want to set an example and trigger discouragement in migrants and those who want to escape perilous and life-threatening conditions in their home countries. 

Angelina Godoy, a human rights researcher, was about to find a VERY uncomfortable truth: why young undocumented migrants are being sent to facilities run like jails.

CNN revealed that Godoy, , director of the Center for Human Rights at the University of Washington,  dug deep into the ICE system to find out the location of young migrants who had been detained. She had heard that the authorities had been conducting raids where they swept up kids and took them to juvenile detention facilities. According to government documents accessed by CNN, the facilities were the government is authorized to detain a minor for more than 72 hours are: the Cowlitz County Youth Services Center in Washington state, Abraxas Academy in Pennsylvania (managed by GEO Group, a private company), and the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility’s juvenile division (NORCOR).  One of these facilities was close to Godoy’s home in Seattle, so she filed a public record request to understand why young people were being sent to this jail-like places and not to detention centers for migrant children. The facility was being cooperative, but then something happened. 

But ICE blocked her access to information.

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Yes, como lo leen, when Godoy was about to find the truth the facility withheld the info, directed by ICE. The county determined that Godoy and her team had the right to access that information, but the powers that be determined the opposite. Yes, like in a Hollywood movie where the protagonists gets dangerously close to la puritita verdad. The federal government went as far as going to court to keep the information from Godoy. 

This is why this is a thorny issue for the authorities: young migrants can basically be sent to jail.

Credit: Anderson Cooper Full Circle / CNN

Godoy found out that ICE has been taking minors who they deem as dangerous away from their families. The practice has been going on for about a decade. In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Godoy said: “I may not object to the fact they are being held. But I object to the fact that nobody can even know who they are (and) why”. There is a loophole in the system whereby youth who are detained when already living in United States territory can be put in facilities with other US youth. This means they can basically be put in juvenile detention centers that ICE has a contract with. 

There is basically zero information about these facilities, and families are left in the shadows regarding their loved ones’ fate.

Credit: Anderson Cooper Full Circle / CNN

Godoy revealed that there is a total lack of transparency surrounding these centers. They don’t show on the map of facilities provided by ICE, the agency does not provide information or reports on the condition of the facilities and families cannot find their loved ones through a detainee search because the database only accounts for adults. Once a young person is sent to these centers, it is como si la Tierra se los hubiera tragado. The detainees have limited access to lawyers who could help them understand immigration law and make a case for themselves. ICE says that the youth detained under these circumstances have “a serious criminal history” and it would be irresponsible to  but did not disclose what the parameters to determine the status are. 

Imagine being a mother and not knowing where your child is… quite traumatic right?

Credit: Anderson Cooper Full Circle / CNN

Stories are surfacing about mothers whose kids were taken by ICE to an undisclosed location. CNN reports, for example, on the case of an Honduran woman who escaped violence in her home country and established in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her son was taken to a private detention center in Pennsylvania. He was 16-years-old but looked younger, and had no criminal record. The mother is a cancer patient and the stress of ignoring her child’s whereabouts has worsened her health. The legal basis on which ICE is enforcing these detentions remains a mystery. 

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