Illegal immigrants seeking to avoid detention — in favor of a quick release once in the U.S. — if caught at the border have taken to kidnapping children so that they may be considered a “family” unit and quickly set free under current mandates, according to an Obama administration lawyer.
The Washington Times reports that Leon Fresco, the deputy assistant attorney general who appeared before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday, made the assertion in defending the policy of detaining illegal immigrant family units apprehended at the border.
The administration has appealed Judge Dolly M. Gee’s ruling, ordering that such cases must be swiftly processed and released. According to Fresco the judge’s order has incentivized kidnapping.
“When people now know that when I come as a family unit, I won’t be apprehended and detained — we now have people being abducted so that they can be deemed as family units, so that they can avoid detention,” Mr. Fresco said to the court, according to The Washington Times.
The lawyer representing migrant families, Peter Schey, pushed back against Fresco’s claim. According to the newspaper, Fresco did not cite specific evidence of the practice in court and failed to respond to request for comment.
“We know zero instances of that, and there’s zero support for that anywhere in the record,” Schey said according to The Washington Times. “If they know of any such instances, I would think they would bring the actual instances to the attention of the court.”
In recent years the southern border has experienced as surge in unaccompanied minors and “families” — largely from Central America — illegally crossing into the U.S. Under current policy minors from noncontiguous countries are granted special treatment including being placed with sponsors and family members in the U.S. while they await immigration hearings. Additionally, a case settled nearly two decades ago — known as the Flores agreement — mandated the swift release of minors in custody.
In response to the surge the Obama administration detained some of the families it apprehend at the border, Gee’s ruling last year, however, determined the Flores agreement also applied to children caught with their parents and, since the best interest of the child is to be with a parent, the parents as well.
Fresco argued Tuesday, according to The Washington Times, that the Flores settlement was only intended to deal with unaccompanied minors, not families.