By Jim Forsyth
SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - The American Civil Liberties Union and others have filed a lawsuit on behalf of Central American immigrants seeking to halt the Obama administration from placing immigrant women with children seeking asylum in detention centers.
The lawsuit, filed this week at a federal court in Washington D.C., comes as the United States opens what is billed as the largest family detention facility in the country for immigrant families, located in the southern Texas town of Dilley.
"Immigration detention is not designed to serve the goal of general deterrence, which is properly the function of the criminal justice system," the lawsuit said.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in Dilley on Monday that the new facility, to hold up to 2,400 people, will help send the message to desperate people in Central America not to make the journey.
"It will now be more likely that you will be apprehended, it will now be more likely that you will be detained and sent back," he said.
The facility, known as the South Texas Family Residential Center, has a school recreation area and cottages where the families. Most of the people housed there arrived with the surge of Central American refugees entering the country this past summer and will there live while their applications to remain in the United States are considered by immigration courts.
Catholic Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio, whose archdiocese includes Dilley, Texas, and is a powerful voice for immigrant rights, said the U.S. detention facility policy is "inhumane."
"Prison is prison, no matter how you dress it up," the archbishop, an immigrant from Mexico, told reporters on Friday.
(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Dan Grebler)