Here's a picture drawn by a nine-year old Canadian boy (or as Colorado state representative Debbie Stafford would call him, the next generation of terrorists), currently incarcerated in Hutto Prison in Texas. It's where we keep folks with immigration issues. Not crimes, usually, just administrative proceedings, but it's a prison anyway -- and one with a long record of abuse. Some of them are American citizens, who have done nothing wrong. Others are simply waiting for outstanding immigration questions (such as an amnesty application) to be resolved. It's the first time since Japanese Internment that we've imprisoned children.
UPDATE: More information about Hutto Prison can be found in this heart-wrenching New Yorker article.
One of the things that scares me about housing innocent people -- including children -- in these prisons is that the American prison system, even in its normal operations, is hardly a model of human rights enforcement. The folks operating Hutto prison, as the New Yorker article points out, have their background in guarding prisons, not social services. Brutal things happen in prison: torture officially-sanctioned rape, Abu Gharib-esque behavior -- it's well beyond what can be justified even for hardened criminals. That it may be happening to innocent children -- many who were fleeing this sort of brutality in their home countries -- terrifies me.
UPDATE #2: Since some folks are calling his parents "criminals", and blaming them for coming to the US illegally, a quick overview about this kid's case specifically. His family is from Iran, but the fled to Canada after credible threats of political persecution (the father had allowed a friend to use his print shop to make copies of The Satanic Verses). During this time, the son was born in Canada, and is a Canadian citizen. However, Canada eventually rejected their asylum application, and they were all sent back to Iran, where they were predictably tortured. They paid $20,000 to forge some documents and try again. However, their plane was grounded in Puerto Rico after a passenger had a heart attack, and a US customs official spotted their forged documents. They were told they had to make their asylum application in the US, which they proceeded to do. However, while the process was pending, they were held in Hutto Prison.
My understanding of asylum applications is that they are made after one crosses the border. There are excellent reasons for this to be so: first, I'm not sure how one would apply for asylum while still inside a country (such as Iran) that doesn't have diplomatic relations with the US, and second, even if relations did exist it'd be rather cruel to force folks to stay in a place where they have credible fears of persecution (up to and including torture) while they wait for American bureaucratic machinery to grind along its way. So they come here, and make their pitch from within our borders.
This kid's family, of course, didn't even want to come to the US in the first place (and really, after they way they've been treated, who could blame them), but asylum seekers as a class aren't going to come with visas. If they were in a position where they could wait for a visa, they probably wouldn't be needing asylum. Calling folks such as this "criminals" is an example of a malfunctioning soul.