The message being sent by the U.S. government is that when frightened women and children come to America seeking sanctuary, we will imprison them

Drive south from San Antonio across the flat, derrick-studded, orange-dirt plains of South Texas, veer off Interstate 35 into the tiny fracking boomtown of Dilley, park in a gravel lot, get buzzed in, and you have arrived at the complex of trailers that comprise the South Texas Family Residential Center. This is the largest of three facilities where the U.S. government locks up immigrant women and children who are picked up—or request asylum—at the U.S.-Mexico border. ACLU lawyer Carl Takei describes the place as an internment camp. I’ve also heard it variously described as a “baby jail,” “worse than a Syrian refugee camp,” a “prison camp,” a “concentration camp,” and, what it most feels like: a grand, inhumane, discriminatory “shitshow.”

Mostly, though, the center is just referred to as “Dilley,” as I learned in my week as a volunteer there with CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, a legal-aid clinic. Dilley is privately run by the for-profit prison contractor Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Inside, after you pass through security, you will find women and children confined, humiliated and denied due process by the U.S. government and its private, predatory henchman, CCA.

By any other name

CCA’s website advertises the detention center as providing “care with dignity and respect.” But no matter how much window dressing CCA and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) put on Dilley, they are “using a prison model to detain 2,000 women and children,” says Brian Hoffman, lead attorney at CARA. Inmates can’t leave and are closely watched by guards. They are subject to multiple headcounts during the day and bed checks at night, and afforded little privacy.

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