Incarcerated Children and Mothers Denied Due Process and Critical Information Before Release
SAN ANTONIO, TX - Today, Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), the American Immigration Council, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to account for the cascade of due process violations and detrimental practices at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, and at the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City, Texas.
The four organizations jointly provide legal services to mothers and children detained in Dilley and Karnes, Texas, through the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, and over the past weeks CARA staff and volunteers have witnessed ICE officials coercing women into accepting ankle monitors, denying access to legal counsel and impeding pro bono representation, along with mass disorganization and confusion in implementing the new release policy for mothers who fled violence and who are pursuing protection in the United States. The need to resolve these issues is all the more crucial given last week's court order in the Flores case, which should mean that the remaining families will be released. The federal judge found that the government's family detention practices violate the Flores settlement, which ensures that children are treated properly.
The concerns detailed in the letter include:
- Coercive tactics ICE officials use to persuade women to accept ankle monitors, including meetings held in the courtrooms, where they are denied access to counsel despite requests, and where they are told they must accept ankle monitors in order to be released, despite an immigration judge granting them bond.
- Mothers at Dilley have been intimidated as a result of speaking with counsel about their ankle monitors. One terrified CARA client reported that officials went room-to-room on the night of July 23 wanting to know the names of the mothers who told CARA about the problems with the ankle monitors. These officials emphasized that they wanted the mothers' names. The client reported that angry officials told the mothers that lawyers have nothing to do with this matter.
- Volunteers at the San Antonio bus station have found many families do not understand the terms of their release, and even where they have been handed important documents, they are in English so Spanish or indigenous language speakers do not understand the content. Mothers who have been shackled with an ankle monitor have no idea how or when to charge the device and their deportation officers refused to explain or answer questions before release.
- Conflicting information from ICE causing families to buy and then cancel plane or bus tickets when releases are delayed, causing additional financial and emotional strain on the families.
CARA has pled with ICE to be allowed to help prepare the mothers to understand their rights and obligations upon release through pre-release orientations, meaning a daily briefing to explain the women's rights, any reporting obligations, the importance of appearing for all scheduled court appearances, how to file an asylum application in advance of the one-year filing deadline, and how to connect with pro bono attorneys in their cities of destination. Although those requests were initially received with enthusiasm, nothing has yet been implemented despite numerous attempts by advocates to set up these critically important orientations.
The letter details recommendations that would ameliorate these concerns, but CARA urges the government to end family detention entirely, particularly given the recent decision castigating the federal government for the egregious violations of the Flores settlement agreement pertaining to children. The chaos that currently surrounds the release of women and children from Dilley is just the latest example of why we must #EndFamilyDetention.
Press inquiries, please contact:
AILA: Belle Woods, email@example.com, 202-507-7675
Council: Wendy Feliz, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-507-7524
RAICES: Mohammad Abdollahi, email@example.com, 210-544-7811 *Please contact to speak directly with detained mothers
CLINIC: Maura Moser, firstname.lastname@example.org, 301-565-4830