YOLO COUNTY (CBS13) — Yolo County’s Immigrant Juvenile Detention Facility is getting attention as a possible housing location for some of the thousands of children separated from their families at the border by the federal government.
Yolo County has a contract with the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement to house the highest-risk children. But the county may not open its detention doors for the feds.
A statement released by the Yolo County Board of Supervisors reads they “are gravely disturbed by recent federal directives that have resulted in the forcible separation of families…” It continued, “the county does not, and has no interest in, operating a de facto federal prison for forcibly separated youth.”
The Yolo County juvenile detention facility’s bars and barbed wire are home to a select group of undocumented child immigrants, mostly 15 to 17 years old. They arrived in the U.S. by themselves and were caught and declared physical threats to themselves or others.
“What ends up often happening is kids have psychiatric meltdowns,” UC Davis School of Law Professor Holly Cooper said.
Cooper says their journey to the U.S., often fleeing violence, leads to psychological problems. And Cooper says children recently separated from families at the border may face similar trauma.
“So we can guess that a child is enduring this, he may have behavioral problems that could funnel them into a detention center like Yolo County has,” Cooper said.
“Its broken my heart to see this,” Yolo Interfaith Immigration Network volunteer Alison Pease said.
Pease has volunteered inside the detention center for a decade and says the recent zero-tolerance border policy is vilifying child victims.
“We have to try to see these kids for who they are,” Pease said. “They’re teenagers.”
Now as the federal government seeks space to house thousands of newly detained children, Yolo County may say, “no vacancy.”
The county is in the middle of re-negotiating its contract with the federal government.
The supervisors statement reads, “we continue to closely monitor the broader federal immigration policy and will not take any action contrary to our values.”