CARA Family Detention Project Lauds Ruling to Deny Child Care Licensing to Immigration Detention Centers

CARA

Dilley, TX: The partner organizations in the CARA Family Detention Project applaud the December 2 decision by a Texas state court to block the federal government's effort to obtain licenses allowing it to detain immigrant children at detention centers in Dilley and Karnes City, Texas. Travis County District Court Judge Karin Crump struck down a regulation that would have allowed these for-profit detention centers to obtain state child care licenses while detaining asylum-seeking children and mothers for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The government immediately appealed the permanent ruling, but at an emergency hearing on late Monday Judge Crump reiterated her decision and clarified that no such licenses could be issued during the appeal period.

Bree Bernwanger, managing attorney of the Dilley Pro Bono Project, explained that the ruling makes it far more difficult for ICE to continue detaining families. "Yet another court has found that locking up children and their parents is not a form of 'child care,'" Bernwanger said. "It's time for ICE to recognize that detaining families is illegal and these facilities should be closed."

As Judge Crump's ruling comes down, the federal government continues to detain children and mothers at record high levels and continues to push thousands of families through fast-track procedures that bypass courts and deprive them of due process.

Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee ruled that the federal government's family detention practices violate the longstanding Flores Settlement Agreement regarding the care and custody of immigrant minors. Judge Gee ordered the release of the children being held in the detention centers, and in July the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld her ruling.

Bernwanger commented: "By continuing to hold thousands of children in detention without state child care licenses, ICE is violating its obligations under the Flores Settlement Agreement. The legal mandate is clear, and the Obama Administration must end family detention once and for all."

Last year, CARA wrote to the Governor of Texas opposing the effort to obtain child care licenses for the Dilley and Karnes family detention centers, citing numerous cases of wholly inadequate medical and mental health treatment and violations of due process at these for-profit prisons. Testimony and documents provided to Judge Crump demonstrated that longstanding minimum standards for child care facilities would have to be lowered to enable licensing of these family detention centers. Earlier this fall, ICE's own advisory committee of independent experts in medical and mental health care, education, and law unanimously recommended that ICE stop detaining families, noting that detention for immigration purposes is "never in the best interests of children." Finally, just last week, members of the Department of Homeland Security's Advisory Council overwhelmingly recommended that ICE shift away from the private prison model in its immigration detention.

Press inquiries, please contact:
AILA: Belle Woods, bwoods@aila.org, 202-507-7675
Council: Wendy Feliz, wfeliz@immcouncil.org, 202-507-7524
RAICES: Amy Fischer, amy.fischer@raicestexas.org, 202-459-1977
CLINIC: Patricia Zapor, pzapor@cliniclegal.org, 301-565-4830

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The CARA Family Detention Project is a partnership of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), the American Immigration Council (Council), Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), that provides legal representation and undertakes advocacy on behalf of mothers and children held in federal family detention centers.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 16120830.