Who's responsible for putting children behind bars? When the US government announced its intention to stop the so-called "catch and release" program in 2006, it created an immediate need for more detention facilities to house illegal immigrants apprehended from countries other than Mexico while awaiting deportation hearings. Very soon thereafter, the T. Don Hutto Residential Center was filled with detained families.
The Hutto facility, a for-profit, privately-owned and operated facility in Taylor, a small town near Austin, Texas, had been quickly converted from a correctional center; conditions initially remained prison-like. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement had directed that families should be kept together whenever possible, which sounds like a good thing. But the children were being treated like prisoners, with limited time permitted each day to bathe (five minutes), eat (20 minutes), play outside (10 minutes), or receive schooling (one hour). Upon hearing what was happening, three attorneys sought to change conditions for the detained families.
Directed by Clark Lyda and Jesse Lyda, The Least of These tells the story in concise fashion, featuring interviews with the attorneys as well as some of the families detained at the Hutto facility. It may be heavily stacked on one side, with a special emphasis on the sad faces of young children, but it's a stirring peek inside one of the most divisive issues facing the country.
The film had its world premiere recently at SXSW, and is now available for free streaming via our friends at SnagFilms. We've embedded the video below for your viewing convenience. More information on The Least of These is available at the film's official site.