Court Orders Prompt Release of Immigrant Children from Family Detention
Washington, D.C. - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the American Immigration Council (Council) welcome a decision released Friday evening by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Flores v. Lynch, No. 85-04544 (C.D.Ca.), which ruled that children should generally be released from detention within five days—preferably to a parent, including a parent with whom they were apprehended. The government must implement the Court’s ruling by October 23, 2015.
“There is no denying that the government has breached the Flores settlement agreement. The status quo is unacceptable, and the government must take immediate and dramatic steps to end family detention,” said Victor Nieblas Pradis, AILA President. “Our CARA Project* staff and volunteers submitted numerous declarations to the Court showing how the government is still detaining accompanied minors in secure, unlicensed facilities. It can no longer hide from the American people the ugly truth of how it treats children fleeing persecution,” said Nieblas. “Just as striking is how the Court condemned the ‘deplorable’ conditions in temporary border jails. They do not meet even minimal standards for safe and sanitary conditions,” said Nieblas.
“This decision will bolster our efforts to end the inhumane practice of detaining children and their mothers,” according to Melissa Crow, Legal Director of the American Immigration Council. “The Court chastised the government for ‘unnecessarily dragging their feet’ in releasing children from family detention facilities and for repeating the same arguments they had raised in earlier briefing, which she had already rejected. Judge Gee also scoffed at government warnings that the swift release of children and mothers could spur another mass migration of Central American families, characterizing them as ‘speculative at best, and, at worse, fear mongering.’” Crow added, “Although the Court gives the government some latitude to exceed the five-day limit ‘in the event of an emergency or influx of minors into the United States,’ the decision emphasizes that this should be the exception, not the rule. It’s time for the government to stop making excuses and harming innocent children and their mothers.”
“AILA and the Council will be watching every step the government takes. We expect it to follow this federal court’s order with no less zeal than it did obeying the Texas district court’s DAPA decision,” said Nieblas, referring to the extraordinary efforts the government made to comply with the injunction against the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents process and the planned expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process.
The recent ruling in Flores follows from a July 24, 2015, decision, in which the Court concluded that the government was in violation of the terms of the original Flores settlement, which was intended to ensure the proper care of children in immigration custody. In July, the Court had ordered the government to release children subject to the settlement agreement, but gave the government an opportunity to respond to the Court’s ordered remedy. The government’s response fell far short.
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*CARA is a pro bono project serving the mothers and children detained in Karnes City and Dilley, Texas. The partners in this project are CLINIC, the American Immigration Council, RAICES, and AILA.