Life in the Dilley Family Detention Center

dilley immigration

The largest immigrant family detention center for undocumented women and children is located in Dilley, Texas.  The Dilley detention center houses thousands of women and their children who were caught crossing the southwest border illegally. This 50-acre facility is a temporary home to those who are seeking asylum in the United States.

When migrants arrive, they are escorted to storerooms with stacks of clothing and sneakers to select outfits to keep. Mothers are given supplies such as diapers, bottles, and strollers for their infant children, and a staff pediatrician performs weekly wellness checks.

Each bunkroom holds twelve people, and is equipped with refrigerators, televisions, and telephones.  Migrants are able to move about within the camp.

Despite the fact that the conditions are not brutal in the detention center, detained mothers in the facility say they felt relief initially, but as weeks drag on to months, they begin to struggle. Children become restless and start to wonder what they did wrong. One mother stated that “It’s true, they give the children toys to play with, but they hear so much about court, about lawyers, that’s what their games are about.”  Children are afflicted by the moods of their mothers, and they too become sad and distressed.

Those who have help from lawyers have often been successful at obtaining early release or even winning asylum, but with approximately 40 migrants arriving to the detention center each day, most have to go it alone. “They might have winning claims,” says Elora Mukherjee, a professor from Columbia Law School who brought a squad of students to volunteer at the detention center last month, “but we don’t know because there are just not enough lawyers.”