On February 20, 2015, a Federal Court ordered an immediate end to the practice of detaining children and families solely for the purpose of deterring others from coming to the US. The preliminary injunction was in response to a case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and rejects the US government’s argument that detention was necessary to prevent a mass influx that would threaten national security. The Court wrote that,

“incantation of the magic words ‘national security’ without further substantiation is simply not enough to justify significant deprivations of liberty.»

Since the US government’s harmful return to family detention in 2014, children and families who have fled their home countries and proven to immigration authorities their need for protection have nonetheless remained behind bars under arguments of national security and to ‘set an example’. The Court’s ruling makes clear that governments must analyze the need for detention on a case-by-case basis and that deterrence should never be considered as a factor to deprive someone of their freedom.

All future release decisions must be made using this guidance and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have directed staff to review current cases of detained mothers and children, in accordance with the ruling. While this is a step in the right direction, children should never be detained for immigration purposes, as maintained by international and regional standards.

The IDC and its members and partners hope this ruling aids the US and other governments in avoiding unnecessary use of immigration detention.

Read the ACLU press release

Learn more:

The ‘Family-Friendly’ Myths of Family Detention Facilities (ACLU, Blog of Rights)

The Shame of America’s Family Detention Camps (Wil S. Hylton, NY Times Magazine)