- (AP) DALLAS -- A planned United Nations visit to a highly criticized central Texas center for detaining immigrant families was never approved by federal immigration officials, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman said Thursday.
ICE didn't immediately respond to questions of why the visit by Jorge Bustamante, the Human Rights Council's independent expert on migrant rights, wasn't approved.
Bustamante had been expected to tour the T. Don Hutto facility on Monday. The U.N. human rights office in Geneva announced late last month that he was going to tour the former prison in Taylor, as well as two border areas where U.S. officials say they will crack down on people illegally crossing the border.
ICE spokeswoman Ernestine Fobbs said no tours of Hutto are scheduled.
Bustamante still plans to discuss migrant issues with government officials, campaign groups and immigrants during a mission this month that includes stops in Tucson, Ariz.; Austin, Texas; Fort Myers, Fla.; New York; and Washington, D.C.
Bustamante, who is from Mexico, is expected to present his findings to the 47-nation rights council at its next session in June.
Civil liberties and immigration advocates sued federal officials in March on behalf of several children detained at Hutto, which typically houses about 400 non-criminal immigrants awaiting deportation or other outcomes to their immigration cases.
The groups contend families at Hutto are subjected to psychologically abusive guards, inadequate medical care and inhumane conditions in a facility run like a prison.
What, we have to ask, does the ICE have to hide?
If a preplanned visit by international migrant-rights experts is not permissible, why not? Doesn't the public have a right to know how this "detention center" is being run? Do they really expect us to take them at their word that everything is on the up and up?
The problem with centers like the Hutto facility, as I've explained previously, is that they remain ripe for all kinds of abuses. And their existence and expansion are almost guaranteed by the course we're taking:
- So it seems almost inevitable that we will be seeing more of these mass detention centers, particularly as Bush's announced plan to arrest more illegal immigrants takes full effect. The almost certain byproduct will be that we will see more and more of them designed to accommodate whole families, including citizen children, and the record so far indicates that the conditions will once again be those of a concentration camp.
The law of unintended consequences is arising here. In their determination to arrest illegal immigrants, the government -- acting, in the end, at the behest of nativist agitators -- is potentially putting itself in the business of splitting up families, since many of these illegal immigrants are the parents of citizen children. So to avoid that outcome, the only solution available is to incarcerate those children alongside their parents. The end result: concentration camps -- euphemistically designated "family detention centers" as part of an effort to "secure our borders."
At some point, the public is going to have to start paying attention to what's going on in Texas. A travesty is in the making, and we're asleep at the switch.
[Hat tip to Jesse.]