Groups urge Congress to better asylum seekers housing

Posted at 12:08 AM, Sep 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-02 01:08:06-04

Faith and community leaders are urging Nebraska's Congressional Delegation to stand up for women and children fleeing violence in their countries.

Currently, women and children fleeing Central America wind up in family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania, in inadequate living conditions, according to advocates. 

"Those fleeing violence, are subject to further trauma. Children should not be kept behind barbed wire," says Jeanne Schuler, one of the organizers with Omaha Together One Community (OTOC). 

"We are here, to ask our delegation, our Nebraska delegation, to Washington, to shut down the detention centers," says Schuler. 

Advocates say mothers and children who have fled horrific violence are being held, essentially locked up, against their will. They say there should be more humane, community-based alternatives to these detention centers. 

"Women are carrying their children, 13,000 miles from Central America to the United States. And on the way, what little money they have usually gets stolen from them," says Dan Rock, an Omaha attorney who has visited Dilley, Texas, where one of the largest detention centers is located. "They sleep in the deserts or on the streets, and are often brutalized during their one-to-two week journey to the U.S."

Rock went on to say that this issue is not an immigration issue, but a humanitarian issue.

Congressman Brad Ashford, however, says fixing the asylum detention centers is an immigration issue. 

"The real issue though, is Congress needs to address comprehensive immigration reform, and they need to fix the broken immigration system and that includes asylum seekers," says Ashford. 

Ashford says more funding is needed to upgrade the facilities, but more importantly, there needs to be a clearer process for asylum seekers to apply for legal status. .

"When in fact, it is an asylum situation, Congress has to approve the process and we don't have these discussions about should they be able to apply and get a work permit, that type of thing. It should be clearly set."

Advocates of OTOC and Nebraska Appleseed are working to get 500 people to call the Nebraska delegation and urge Congress to better the housing conditions.