"The Least Of These" Chronicles ACLU's Challenge To Inhumane Detention Of Immigrant Children And Families
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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AUSTIN, TX – "The Least of These," a documentary film about the Hutto detention center, will premiere today at the 2009 South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. The film, co-produced and co-directed by Clark Lyda and Jesse Lyda and produced by Marcy Garriott, chronicles the American Civil Liberties Union's successful legal challenge to the prison-like conditions at a Texas detention center where immigrant children and their families are held.
"Our film questions the government's assumption that imprisonment of immigrant children and their families is a reasonable solution to keeping families together," said Marcy Garriott who produced the film. "Following the lawyers who challenged Hutto in the court system was a tremendous opportunity. It allowed us to explore the role – and limits – of community and legal activism in bringing about change."
The T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas is a former medium-security prison that re-opened in 2006 as a family detention center. The facility houses immigrant children and their parents from all over the world, including some who are awaiting asylum hearings or deportation proceedings.
"'The Least of These' shows why our government shouldn't be locking up innocent children," said Vanita Gupta, an attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice Program. "We hope that the film brings to the forefront the need for practical, realistic immigration policy, not draconian methods that are harming vulnerable kids."
In March 2007, the ACLU, along with the ACLU of Texas, the University of Texas Law Immigration Clinic and the international law firm of LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, filed lawsuits on behalf of 26 immigrant children, challenging their illegal detention at the Hutto facility and seeking their release and improved conditions.
Prior to the litigation, the children at Hutto were required to wear prison garb and detained in small cells for 11 to 12 hours with only one hour of recreation a day. They lacked access to adequate medical, dental and mental health treatment and were denied meaningful educational opportunities. Guards frequently disciplined children by threatening to separate them permanently from their parents.
In August 2007, the attorneys representing the children reached a settlement with the federal government, and conditions at Hutto have gradually and significantly improved as a result.
"The Least of These" premieres at SXSW today, March 16 at 11:00 am CDT at the Alamo Ritz, and plays again Wednesday, March 18 at 7:00 pm CDT at the Alamo South Lamar and Friday, March 20 at 11:00 am CDT at the Paramount.
Admission is with a SXSW Film badge, SXSW film pass or single ticket (available at each venue 30 minutes before the screening time). More information is available online at: sxsw.com/film
There will be a Q & A after each screening featuring the directors, Barbara Hines of the University of Texas School of Law, Michelle Brané of the Women's Refugee Commission and former Hutto detainees.
The film can be viewed online after the premiere at: www.snagfilms.com/films/title/the_least_of_these and available to educational institutions through: www.cinemaguild.com
Rights/Camera/Action is an ACLU program that uses the arts and popular culture as a platform for civil liberties discussions. More information about Rights/Camera/Action is available online at: www.aclu.org/rca