Demonstrators Protest Practices at Immigrant Detention Center in Waco
Demonstrators from Austin, Waco, Taylor and Dallas met to protest what they said are unfair practices at immigrant detention centers; specifically the Jack Harwell Detention Center in Waco.
Protestors said the detention center should not be used to hold ICE detainees.
"I would love to see our local jail, our local law-enforcement abide by the law and then just not even enforce those, because they don't have to," said Waco immigration lawyer Kent McKeever.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, (D) TX-35, agrees that detention centers aren't the answer.
"I think we should look for alternatives to detention centers. There's so many religious organizations and community service organizations that will be willing to host some of these families. That's the better approach," said Doggett.
Protestors said the center lacks adequate medical care, doesn't provide access to a legal library, limits visitation and treats detainees like criminals.
"The families are being broken up for unfair, unjust and irrational reasons," McKeever said.
The Jack Harwell Detention Center said they are required to follow National Detention Standards. They said they meet those standards and strive to provide the best care they can for detainees.
Nazry Mustakim said he was detained for 10 months in 2012 after his green card got revoked.
"I felt like I was treated as a criminal. I've been to jail before and even the officers when I was in jail didn't mess with me as much as the officers there," said Mustakim.
McKeever said Mustakim's story isn't uncommon, but he is one of the lucky ones that got to stay in America.
McKeever said we should stop enforcing ICE detainers because for many people legal immigration isn't always an option.
"A lot of folks that are immigrating here, they do not have a year to wait, they may not even have a month to wait. They're fleeing from violence and poverty and injustices in their countries and they're coming to a refuge where they can start a new life with us here in America and we need to be more compassionate towards those people," said McKeever.
The Jack Harwell Detention Center has about 250 beds for ICE detainees. The average age of one of the detainees’ is about 19 years old.
Congress mandates that ICE maintain no less than 34,000 people in immigrant detention centers every day.
Demonstrators said that encourages ICE to detain immigrants that have never committed a serious crime.