Gee had already found DHS in violation of the agreement in July, with the most recent ruling being a stern rebuttal of the government’s request to reconsider the ruling. DHS has argued that complying with the agreement would lead to a large influx of illegal immigrants crossing the border; however Gee called the argument “repackaged and reheated,” saying it was “speculative,” and equating it to “fearmongering.”
California U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee issued a 15-page ruling late Friday calling for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to release hundreds of immigrant children being held in three family detention centers “without unnecessary delay.” This comes after a wave of refugee children and families crossing into the Southwestern U.S. crossing the Mexican border last summer, mostly to flee violent Central American countries. Gee found DHS in violation of a 1997 legal settlement known as the Flores agreement, requiring certain housing standards for children in the U.S. illegally or are seeking asylum. In the ruling, Gee wrote that DHS “routinely failed to proceed as expeditiously as possible to place accompanied minors, and in some instances, may still be unnecessarily dragging their feet now.” Gee said that the children should have been released within 72-hours if they were not to be perceived to be a flight risk or a danger to themselves or others. Despite the call for immediate release, Gee did give the government until October 23rd to comply with the decision as well as allow for some logistical leeway.
Gee had already found DHS in violation of the agreement in July, with the most recent ruling being a stern rebuttal of the government’s request to reconsider the ruling. DHS has argued that complying with the agreement would lead to a large influx of illegal immigrants crossing the border; however Gee called the argument “repackaged and reheated,” saying it was “speculative,” and equating it to “fearmongering.” Including the wave of fleeing children last summer, U.S. authorities apprehended roughly 68,000 people while crossing the U.S.-Mexican border between September 2013 and October 2014, a large portion being mothers with children. That number dropped significantly in the months since, with less than 30,000 people apprehended from October 2014 to this past July. U.S. authorities cite better enforcement and coordination between the U.S. and Mexican government for the drop. On Saturday, DHS released a statement saying that the department will “consider available options with the Department of Justice.” Some analysts speculate the government will try to bring the case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals headquartered in San Francisco.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office has overseen the 1,400 detainees in two facilities in Texas near San Antonio, which house over 1,300 of the children and women, along with about 70 detainees in a smaller facility in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Despite government oversight, the two Texas facilities are run by private companies, adding to the controversy. Gee herself has called the temporary facilities “deplorable,” saying that they have “failed to meet even the minimal standard” for “safe and sanitary” conditions. Government attorneys have argued that conditions in the facilities have improved in recent months; however Gee refuted that claim citing little evidence. The Justice Department responded in a statement that it will “continue to screen family members’ claims as expeditiously as possible.” Gee’s order does not make it clear, however, whether or not the parents will be released as well, or if families will be separated. According to the Census Bureau, the number of immigrants in the U.S. reached a record high of 42.1 million in the second quarter of 2015, or 13.3 percent of the U.S. population.
International Business Times -Aditya Tejas
Los Angeles Times – Cindy Carcamo
The Salinas Californian/Associated Press- Seth Robbins