A Los Angeles federal judge has ruled that the current conditions in which a number of illegal immigrant children and their mothers are detained contradict an older court settlement. This could mean that over 2,000 women and children will be moved from family detention centers into special facilities.
The decision was taken on Friday by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee, and rejected the Department of Justice’s arguments to detain the families, as the centers they were held in did not match the standards required for housing children. The multiple families are currently held in two recently opened Texas detention centers.
The settlement which the judge referenced in her decision was 1997 ruling which prohibits detaining children in anything else than specially licensed facilities. Judge Gee interpreted it as covering all of the children held in federal custody for illegal immigration reasons, including those held with parents.
The federal judge ruled that the two family detention centers were in violation of the 18-year old settlement, as children are required to be placed in less-prison like areas with staff licensed to take care and interact with children. The two detention centers do not match these requirements, being reportedly managed by private prison contractors.
The immediate implications for the immigrant detainees are not known, but it is rather likely that they will have to be moved in adequate facilities. This decision does not affect the legality of their detaining, but rather only the conditions in which they are being held.
Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Marsha Catron has stated that the institution is disappointed with the court ruling, and is consulting with the Department of Justice on the following steps, according to the New York Times. The institutions need to present a plan for carrying out the ruling by August 3.
The lawsuit was initially filed in February by Carlos Hoguin and Peter Shey, two lawyers from Los Angeles’ Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, and was the result of two months of failed negotiations with the Justice Department on current detaining conditions. Mr. Shey told reporters on Friday that the immigrant family detention policy practiced by the Obama administration is “irrational and inhumane”.
The two detention centers targeted were opened last year by Homeland Security in Dilley and Karnes City, being the third such center on the country’s territory considering a previous Pennsylvania one. Much controversy surrounded Homeland Security’s reasoning for holding families at the two centers: to “send a message” toward other possible Central American illegal immigrants, which a D.C. court ruled as unconstitutional in February.
Image Source: LA Times