03, Mar 2018 | CJP Team
In a recently released report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) detailed that United States’ Customs and Border Protection agents regularly hold families, including infants, in freezing holding cells after they are taken into custody at or near the border. For the report, HRW conducted 110 interviews with women and children, and found that border agents regularly separate adult men and teenaged boys from their families during the initial period of detention, and even typically after when they are moved to longer-term detention centres. Agency policy directs that families should be kept together, and according to HRW, detention and separation of families seriously negatively impact mental health. In 2015, psychologists found that being in the holding cells was “the most difficult and traumatic” period of detention for women and children whom US immigration officials had detained. Women and children told HRW they spent up to three nights in holding cells that were uncomfortably cold, and were only provided foil blankets. In several instances, they were required to take off and dispose of sweaters, apparently for security purposes. In these situations, hand soap is often not supplied, and most of the women and children detained in these holding cells said they were not permitted to shower. Agency officials have routinely denied that the holding cells are cold, but women and children who were detained there regularly said that the temperatures there were significantly lower than those in other immigration detention facilities. According to a Women’s Refugee Commission report titled Prison for Survivors, from October 2017, almost all of the around 150 women who were interviewed in 2016 and 2017 said they were “held for days in freezing cold CBP facilities”.