Judge Orders Release of Immigrant Children Detained by the US

A significant ruling the US.

A federal judge in California has ruled that US detention of immigrant children and their mothers is a serious violation of a longstanding court settlement, insisting that the families be released as quickly as possible.

In a decision late Friday Judge Dolly M. Gee required that minors be placed in facilities that are not secured like prisons and are licensed to take care of children.

This ruling joins the growing chorus worldwide: innocent children do not deserve to be locked up.

The decision found that two detention centers in Texas fail to meet minimum legal requirements and that children had been held in “widespread deplorable conditions” in Border Patrol stations after they were first caught. She said the authorities had “wholly failed” to provide the “safe and sanitary” conditions required for children even in temporary cells.

The U.S. had stopped using large-scale family detention in 2009, closing the family detention center in Hutto, Texas, and using only the small 95-bed Berks facility in Pennsylvania.

But, in the summer of 2014, the U.S. returned to the harmful practice of detaining children and families, as part of a misguided response to the increased arrival of children from Central America who were fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries. Authorities detained families arriving at the southern border, even though most were seeking safety and protection and would be filing asylum claims to eventually be able to remain in the U.S.

New family detention facilities were opened in Artesia, New Mexico and Karnes and Dilley, Texas. The facility in Artesia has since been closed due to reports of abuse and lack of due process.

While the headlines about the numbers of children crossing the border may have died down, the children are in large part being prevented from moving on to the US with increased use of detention in the region, notably in Mexico.

This ruling from the US brings national law into line with international law on this issue, which stipulates that detaining children due to their migration status is a child rights violation.

This content comes from the End Child Detention Campaign, which the IDC supports.