This is a blow to the Obama administration’s immigration handlings. They have held more than 2,600 women and children in the three centers, since June, officials said.
When considering Obama ran on a platform to close Guantanamo it seem hypocritical that his administration would have thought these detention centers where women and children can be held indefinitely would be a fair idea. We understand we have an immigration problem, but we’ve also come to the conclusion we have a major prison problem, with overcrowding, poorly run facilities and misguided policies, so why would think locking up even more people, especially women and children seeking a better life, would be a good idea? This is disturbing. All too often we hear politician pontificating on immigration issues, but we forget to look for the stories of impact. This is one of those.
Here’s The New York Times
In a decision late Friday roundly rejecting the administration’s arguments for holding the families, Judge Dolly M. Gee of Federal District Court for the Central District of California found that two detention centers in Texas that the administration opened last summer fail to meet minimum legal requirements of the 1997 settlement for facilities housing children.
Judge Gee also found that migrant children had been held in “widespread deplorable conditions” in Border Patrol stations after they were first caught, and she said the authorities had “wholly failed” to provide the “safe and sanitary” conditions required for children even in temporary cells.
The opinion was a significant legal blow to detention policies ordered by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in response to an influx of children and parents, mostly from Central America, across the border in South Texas last summer. In her 25-page ruling, Judge Gee gave a withering critique of the administration’s positions, declaring them “unpersuasive” and “dubious” and saying officials had ignored “unambiguous” terms of the settlement.
“I think this spells the beginning of the end for the Obama administration’s immigrant family detention policy,” Mr. Schey, the president of the human rights center, said Friday. “A policy that just targets mothers with children is not rational and it’s inhumane.”
The detention of the mothers and children has drawn furious criticism from immigrant advocates and religious and Latino groups, who have called on the administration to shut the detention centers down.
Since last summer’s surge, Homeland Security officials opened detention centers in Texas in Dilley and Karnes City, in addition to a small family center already operating in Berks County, Pa. As of June 30, about 2,600 women and children were held in the three centers, officials said.
Initially, Homeland Security officials said they were detaining the families to send a message to others in Central America to deter them from coming to the United States illegally. In February, a federal court in Washington, D.C., ruled that strategy unconstitutional. Officials stopped invoking deterrence as a factor in deciding whether to release mothers and children as they seek asylum in the United States.
But many women and children remained stalled behind bleak walls and fences month after month with no end in sight. Mothers became severely depressed or anxious, and their distress echoed in their children, who became worried and sickly.
Under the Flores settlement, officials were required to try first to release a child to a parent, legal guardian or close relative. Judge Gee concluded that if the mother was also detained, Homeland Security officials should release her with the child, as long as she did not present a flight or security risk. She gave the administration one week to devise a plan to release children and mothers “without unnecessary delay.”