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Ahead of World Children’s Day on November 20, Amnesty International is calling for all children currently being held at the Dilley Detention Center to be freed with their families, and for the USA to end its plan of expanding family detention centers. The South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, is currently the largest immigration detention center in the United States, holding hundreds of families. The capacity for the Center is now at 2,400 beds. Seven-year-old Mario is one of the children that remains behind bars at Dilley after being separated from his mother, Andrea, for 73 days for seeking safety. They left Guatemala after years of being targeted because they belong to the Q’eqchi Indigenous group.

Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA, stated:

“World Children’s Day should be a day for every child to claim their rights. All children deserve to be safe and protected, to live with their parents and their families, and to have their voices heard. Instead, this World Children’s Day, children are locked up behind bars in the United States with their families, indefinitely, in fear of what will happen to them next.

“What the US government is doing is abhorrent. It could release these families while they pursue their asylum claims, but instead it has chosen to lock up children with their parents, simply for exercising their human rights and seeking asylum.

“The United States has failed to protect children’s rights, refusing to do what is best for children while it continues to pursue cruel policies of hate and demonization.”

Background:

World Children’s Day is the 1959 Day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. It is also the date in 1989 it adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which guarantees children’s rights around the world.

Amnesty International is partnering with the American Immigration Council, American Immigration Lawyers Association, and the Dilley Pro Bono Project to call on ICE to release the dozens of families currently in prolonged detention at Dilley.

Many of the families held at Dilley come from a region known as the Northern Triangle of Central America which includes El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The Northern Triangle is an area widely recognized for extreme levels of violence and insecurity, which Amnesty has documented extensively.

On October 26, Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA, visited an unaccompanied children’s camp in Tornillo, Texas, which currently holds over 1,100 children.