US District Judge Dolly Gee basically upheld her initial decision taken in July, despite requests from Homeland Security to reconsider the case. Considering that the department brought nothing new to the discussion, just rehashing its old arguments, Judge Gee maintained her stance that current family detention centers for illegal immigrants are not fit to host children, following a 1997 ruling which draw the lines on acceptable detention conditions for underage individuals caught entering the US illegally.
Homeland Security now faces an October 23rd deadline to find a solution for the housing of nearly 1,600 family members which were kept throughout three family detention centers in the US – two in Texas and one in Pennsylvania. The department argued that there are already plans of transforming them into short-term detention centers, and that this ruling will only encourage more attempts of illegal immigrations from Central and Latin America; a claim which Judge Gee deemed as “fear-mongering”.
It is not clear whether Homeland is going to make another appeal, with spokeswoman Nicole Navas telling the press that its attorneys are reviewing the ruling. However, no efforts of relocating or deporting the families are expected to go underway until a definitive decision goes through, with the case having a possibility of reaching the U.S. Supreme Court.
The settlement which Homeland Security violated with its family detention centers was a 1997 one widely known as the Flores Agreement – which states that children either entering the country through an asylum request or in an illegal manner must be held in centers with special personnel qualified to work with children and better conditions than in most detention centers.
But the two newly-built Texas family detention centers are not really unlike prisons, with ex-prison personnel without pedagogic instruction forming their staffs. They are also allegedly lacking in the sanitary aspect, as Judge Gee deemed them as unhealthy and unsafe. While Homeland officials claim that conditions at these centers can be improved, the federal judge asserted that they did little to prove this was possible.
Unfortunately for the families, the ruling applies only to the children. This means that the government might choose to split the families and send the children into better detention centers – a move which would no doubt stir up another lengthy legal dispute.
Image Source: Yucatan Times