AILA Public Statements, Press Releases

Judge: Government Still Failing to Meet Standards for Detaining Children

George Tzamaras
Belle Woods


Washington, DC - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) welcomed the decision from U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee affirming that the federal government is not acting in accordance with the 20-year-old Flores Settlement Agreement which governs the custody and release of all immigrant children nationwide. The judge found that the government's border detention and family detention practices violate that agreement and ordered the appointment of a Juvenile Coordinator as defined in the Flores Agreement to ensure compliance. The court will assess progress in one year and if sufficient efforts have not been made, will appoint an independent monitor.

The decision comes nearly two years after Judge Gee found the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in violation of the Flores settlement and only after plaintiffs in the case brought repeated violations to the attention of the court.

Judge Gee concluded that children continue to be held longer than 20 days in secure, unlicensed facilities in defiance of the Flores settlement and the judge's previous orders, as well as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling last year. The court determined that almost all Rio Grande Valley sector facilities in which children and adults were kept had unsafe and unsanitary conditions, with inadequate food, inadequate access to clean drinking water, inadequate hygiene, cold temperatures and inadequate sleeping conditions. Further the court concluded the government has failed to: make repeated efforts to release children, ensure that children are not kept in secure, non-licensed facilities (like the facility in Dilley, Texas), and release children within the court's 20-day limit.

AILA President Annaluisa Padilla commented, "For three years we have steadily fought against family detention, and this decision hammers another nail into its coffin. We will not stop until the federal government ceases its reprehensible treatment of families. Children have suffered because America's Department of Homeland Security can't be bothered to follow court orders that mandate humane treatment. Maybe now with a juvenile coordinator looking over their shoulders they will be forced to act in an ethical and moral way."

AILA Executive Director Benjamin Johnson added, "Judge Gee rightly points out that the government isn't following its own standards in several ways; so while Customs and Border Protection's own National Standards on Transport, Escort, Detention, and Search, called the 'TEDS Manual' says that children must have a certain amount of food and access to clean water, they don't. Their manual says kids can't be chilled to the bone in so-called 'ice boxes' but that's exactly what is happening. Once again, the court is telling the government that treating vulnerable children this way is inhumane and must end."


The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.