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Policy toward immigrant family detention may change

Pennsylvania is the location of one of the detention centers for women and children found crossing the border illegally into the United States, but the government may be moving away from its policy of detaining these immigrants. Increasingly, attention has been shed on poor conditions at detention centers by politicians, religious leaders and the press, and in May, a group of House Democrats called on the Department of Homeland Security and the Obama administration to end the practice.

While the aim of the detention centers is ostensibly to ensure that immigrants appear for their court hearings, one attorney pointed out that his clients almost always show up, including those who haven't been detained. Because the immigrants are seeking asylum, it is to their advantage to make their scheduled court appearances. It has been recommended that a switch be made to a system of case management and monitoring.

Reports of abuses at detention centers have been widespread. For example, some women went on a hunger strike to protest conditions and were placed in a kind of solitary confinement in a darkened infirmary. Immigrants report being denied access to phones at times, and the centers are often far from facilities and attorneys. At the Pennsylvania center, people who have passed their preliminary hearings and have been in detention for more than a year have yet to be released.

Those immigrants who are facing deportation may wish to speak with an attorney to determine how to fight the charges. Those who believe that they are risking danger should they be ordered to return to their home country have a right to try to get asylum in the United States, and an immigration attorney might provide assistance during a hearing on the matter.

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