Court Again Rules Against Federal Government's Efforts to Detain Children
Washington, DC – The American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) commented on the decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirming that the nearly 20-year-old Flores Settlement Agreement governs the custody and release of all immigrant children, and that the Obama Administration’s family detention practices violate that agreement.
The decision came after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appealed last summer’s ruling by District Court Judge Dolly Gee finding DHS in violation of the agreement. DHS had argued that the settlement did not apply to children apprehended with their mothers, and that the continued detention of children who arrived with their mothers was therefore permissible. However, the appellate court held that the Flores settlement does in fact govern the treatment of both unaccompanied and accompanied children, and that neither the family detention centers nor Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s published standards governing such detention centers comply with the settlement. The appellate court further affirmed that the district court was right to deny DHS’s request to amend the settlement agreement in order to permit family detention to continue. While the court disagreed with the district court’s finding that the settlement’s terms address the release of mothers, its decision does nothing to preclude the release of mothers with their children.
AILA President William A. Stock noted, “This ruling offers the federal government another chance to do the right thing and end family detention. The Obama Administration chose to ramp up the detention of mothers and children fleeing violence, against both legal precedent and our nation’s principles. And now it can finally choose to end it. There are many tools at the administration’s disposal to process families in ways that comply with due process, rejecting fast-track removal procedures like expedited removal and relying instead upon the strength of our court system, and using proven alternatives to detention in the few cases where there are demonstrated flight risks.”
Melissa Crow, Legal Director of the American Immigration Council, said, “The Obama Administration controls the next move. A decision by DHS to respond to this decision by separating children from their mothers would be an affront to our country’s values. Many of the mothers currently in family detention are already panicking about this prospect. Nothing in the court’s decision requires this perverse and inhumane outcome. The administration has everything it needs to protect these asylum seeking-families. President Obama’s legacy on immigration depends on it.”
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