The Least of These

Detention of immigrant children in a former medium-security prison in Texas in 2007-8 leads to controversy when three activist attorneys discover troubling conditions at the facility. This compelling documentary film explores the role – and limits – of community activism, and considers how American rights and values apply to the least powerful among us. It is a powerful and relevant reminder that the detention of children remains an unacceptable part of any immigration approach. (Since the film’s release, activists Bob Libal, Barbara Hines, Vanita Gupta and Michelle Brané have remained on the front lines of the continuing battles against injustice and child detention).


Powerful and moving… a film about a fight for social justice that forced change…
– Mark Steiner, WEAA, Baltimore

A stirring peek inside one of the most divisive issues facing the country…
– Peter Martin, Cinematical

The film asks to what extent Uncle Sam will punish kids for the sins of their parents,

even if that sin is wanting to be an American.
– Will Coviello,

Essential viewing…
– Culture Capital (Washington D.C.)

* * *

2017 UPDATE: The Trump administration has continued the Obama administration’s use of large family detention facilities, and is considering taking the further step of separating parents from their children at the border. Immigration advocacy organizations around the country remain committed to fighting such policies and to providing support to affected immigrants and asylum-seekers.

2016 UPDATE: Two large family detention facilities remain operational in Texas: Karnes and Dilley, both run by private prison corporations. In late 2016 almost 500 detainees were released when a Texas judge ruled that the facilities could not be licensed by the state of Texas as child care facilities.

2014 UPDATE: An influx of unaccompanied minors, and minors with parents, has led DHS to re-institute the practice of family detention, in several facilities.  One of these facilities is run by a private prison company, a situation many thought would never be allowed to re-occur.  In a recent NPR interview, immigration attorney Barbara Hines (lead advocate in “The Least of These”) stated:  “If we are going to have [detention facilities for immigrant children] – and I am opposed to them – they should be run by licensed child welfare agencies.”

2009 UPDATE:  The Obama administration announced in August 2009 that it would begin the process of overhauling the nation’s immigrant detention system.  The Department of Homeland Security immediately stopped sending families to the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, the former medium-security prison near Austin, TX that is the subject of “The Least of These.”

This outcome was the result of a unique collaboration of advocacy efforts, involving filmmaking, grassroots organizing, litigation, public education, and legislative efforts.   However, substantial and disturbing problems continue to exist throughout the American immigrant detention system.   Advocacy initiatives, such as the “Dignity, Not Detention” campaign just launched by the Detention Watch Network,  are more important than ever.

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