A highly-criticized Texas center for detained immigrant families has unsuitable living conditions, and federal officials overseeing the facility should have spent more time researching how to properly care for children in detention.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin made the critical comments about the T. Don Hutto facility in an order that set the case for trial in August.
"The living conditions at Hutto seem questionable in general," Sparks wrote in the order signed Monday.
Civil liberties and immigration advocates contend families at Hutto are subjected to psychologically abusive guards, inadequate medical care and inhumane conditions and that the facility is run like a prison. They sued federal officials in March on behalf of several children detained at Hutto, a former prison that typically houses about 400 non-criminal immigrants awaiting rulings on their immigration cases.
About half of those detained at Hutto are children, officials have said.
Testimony and other evidence suggest the Hutto facility is not complying with a federal settlement agreement that calls for immigration authorities to house children in nonsecure, licensed programs such as shelters or foster homes, Sparks wrote.
Testimony showed that in its first seven months the center offered children only an hour of school a day, 20 minutes to east their meals, and no other nutrition during the day, Sparks wrote.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials did not immediately comment on the case. However, Sparks pointed out that Hutto has made improvements over the last few weeks.
Hutto officials extended the time for attorney-client consultations and did away with limitations on the number of clients lawyers can visit. The facility also has added a supervised children's area near the attorney-client meeting room so parents can speak with their lawyers privately.
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