A coalition of nineteen human rights and immigrants’ rights organizations filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security and its Immigration and Customs Enforcement, requesting a federal court in Los Angeles to order the administration to release records dealing with the government’s reasons for not releasing detained immigrant families together.
On August 4, 2020, the coalition submitted a FOIA request to the Trump Administration seeking access to records regarding family detentions and the Trump administration’s failure to release children, but no records were released. The requesting organizations are opposed to the lengthy detention of migrant family units who are neither a flight risk nor danger. The Trump administration opposed and sought to terminate a 1997 settlement reached in a still pending federal court case in Los Angeles named Flores v. Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson. The 1997 settlement was reached with the Los Angeles-based non-profit Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL). For over twenty years the Flores settlement has set the national standards for the detention and prompt release of detained minors who are not flight risks or a danger. Over a hundred thousand detained children have been released under the settlement.
The requesting organizations believe that families can be safely released saving DHS hundreds of millions of dollars, and allowing migrants to reunite with their families, secure legal counsel, and properly prepare their cases for presentation to the immigration courts.
Denise Bell, Researcher on Refugee & Migrant Rights at Amnesty International USA, one of the requesting parties, issued the following statement: “Children should be able to grow up with their families, friends and communities – not be detained based solely on their immigration status. Nothing is stopping ICE from freeing families together, but it has chosen again and again to make it as difficult as possible to release children with their parents so they can be together and safe. This lawsuit builds pressure on ICE to answer with transparency and accountability for these policies so that the United States can finally do what it best for these children – to be give back their freedom and return them to communities in the United States ready to welcome them home.”
Peter Schey, counsel for the coalition suing for records and one of the class counsel for all detained minors in the Flores case, issued the following statement: “By disclosing all instructions and directives now being relied upon to detain children and families, all interested parties, including child welfare experts, doctors, therapists, and lawyers assisting detained children, will be far better informed regarding how and why detention decisions are being made at a national level. With this information, children’s advocates will engage in meaningful discussions with the Biden administration to wind down President Trump’s senseless, harmful, and costly policy of massive indiscriminate family detention. The bottom line is that children and families who are not a flight risk or a danger should be released together.”
Monica Eav Glicken, Directing Attorney, on behalf of requesting party Immigration Unit, Public Law Center, issued this statement: “The Public Law Center is extremely concerned about DHS’s lack of transparency about its detention of children and their parents who arrive at our borders seeking protection under our asylum laws. Unfortunately, this complaint is necessary in order to hold DHS accountable for its unlawful, traumatizing and inhumane practices.”
Bridget Cambria, Esq., Executive Director of requesting party ALDEA – The People’s Justice Center, issued this statement: “On behalf of the families who have survived detention and the families who today suffer in detention it is time to understand the government’s justification for unnecessarily detaining children and their parents for months or years at a time and it is beyond time to understand why the government chose to subject parents and children to family separation as an unconscionable alternative. This request for information is vital to document the government’s failure to free the families and to abandon the unnecessary detention of accompanied children and families.”
Plaintiff Parties are organizations from throughout the country concerned with and working to end the unnecessary and harmful detention of children and families.
Clergy And Laity United For Economic Justice (Los Angeles, CA);
El Rescate (Los Angeles, CA);
Amnesty International USA (national)
Human Rights Watch( national);
Aldea – The People’s Justice Center (Reading, Pa);
California League Of United Latin American Citizens (California);
Public Law Center (Santa Ana, Ca);
Alianza Americas (Chicago, Il);
Immigrants’ Rights Clinic At Columbia Law School (New York, NY);
Geographies Of Displacement University Of Texas At Austin And El Colegio De Sonora (Austin, Tx);
Immigrant Justice Task Force (Chicago, Il);
Interfaith Community For Detained Immigrants (Chicago, Il);
Legal Services For Prisoners With Children (Oakland Ca);
No More Deaths (Tucson, Az);
Proyecto Dilley (Dilley Tx);
Refugee and Immigrant Center For Education and Legal Services (San Antonio, Tx);
Project Lifeline (Tiburon, Ca);
Uncage & Reunite Families Coalition (Ca and Tx);
Witness At The Border (Menlo Park, Ca).