While state and federal governments argue about a solution to illegal immigration interminably, many families wait in limbo. Limbo for many of them means a detention center made out of an old jail, much to the anger of many civil rights groups.
The Obama administration has yet to form a clear direction on the issue, but it did make a statement by shuttering a Central Texas detention center recently.
However, closing one detention center out of the thousands all across the country is not going to change much. The administration has tried to steer clear of former Bush tactics of raiding places that might have groups of illegal immigrants, and instead placing pressure on businesses not to hire them. But it has also made allowing a means of attaining resident status for those already in the country a priority.
The administration said the decision was the first of many to create a more "civil detention philosophy," allowing the immigrants to find other places to stay, or just move some of them to another detention center.
In a recent investigation of detention facilities, The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights observed an example of an alternative to detention in the Austin, Texas, area that allows asylum seekers and their children to live in a home environment while their cases proceed. But housing illegal immigrants in homes is financially costly and unfair to the legal citizen who must bear the financial burden, and with millions of illegal immigrants in the country already, an unviable practice.
Detained immigrants will now have the burden of finding places to stay and ways to support themselves, as well as potentially getting lost in the shuffle, allowing officials to find them when their cases come to court -- exactly what both administrations have been trying to avoid.
Detaining people in dubious prison-like centers, or releasing them to fend for themselves while encouraging employers not to hire them both do a disservice to human beings and are not the fair and humane solution that both sides deserve.
Holly LaFon has written and worked for various local publications including D Magazine and Examiner.