Judge Orders Release of Up to 1,700 Illegal Immigrant Families in Texas

A California court ruling could set free more than 1,700 women and children who are being held by the Department of Homeland Security in facilities in the town of Dilley and Karnes County, Texas.  As of Monday, immigration judges were getting the word out to release these families, as part of a court decision in California that struck down the Obama administrations policy regarding the handling of Central American illegal immigrant families and unaccompanied minors.

The Flores decision of 1993 would define these families as “unlawfully detained”, and Judges began ordering the release of nine families on conditional parole, without bail. No word on when they will actually be released from the facilities, according to an article in the San Antonio Express-News.

Families being detained at the CCA South Texas Family Residential Center (Photo: ICE.gov)

Families being detained at the CCA South Texas Family Residential Center (Photo: ICE.gov)

A pro-bono legal team made up of four groups including, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the American Immigration Council, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, had sent a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), raising a number of complaints, including the delayed releases.

In the story from the Express-News, the Department of Homeland Security , which oversees ICE, hasn’t said if it will appeal the ruling. A spokeswoman said Saturday that the department is “reviewing it in consultation with the Department of Justice.”

Federal Judge Dolly Gee, California Central District Court, ruled that ICE had violated the 1997 Flores decision. She said ICE is violating the court’s orders on how juveniles in the custody of ICE are supposed to be treated, according to the Catholic Sentinel.

Gee found it “astonishing that the defendants have enacted a policy requiring such expensive infrastructure without more evidence to show that it would be compliant with an agreement that has been in effect for nearly 20 years or effective at achieving what defendants hoped it would accomplish,” the Sentinel reported.

The two Texas facilities are operated by large for-profit commercial prison companies. The Karnes County Residential Center is operated by the Geo Group. The South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley is operated by the nation’s largest for-profit commercial prison company, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

Breitbart Texas reporter Bob Price visited the Dilley facility on Sunday while returning from the Laredo Sector of the Texas/Mexico Border. While photographing the outside of the facility from a public street, he was ordered to leave and told he could not take pictures of the complex.

South Texas Family Residential Center - CCA (Photo: Breitbart Texas/Bob Price)

South Texas Family Residential Center – CCA (Photo: Breitbart Texas/Bob Price)

In November, 2014, Price wrote that CCA was awarded a no-bid contract to run the Dilley facility through a back-door process with the city of Eloy, Arizona.

The operation is run under what is called an Intergovernmental Services Agreement (ISA) according to an article by John Burnett on NPR.org. The ISA allows the City of Eloy to manage the facility without competitive bidding. When ICE decided to build the new facility in Dilley, Texas, rather than go through a time-consuming bidding process that could delay construction by as much as eighteen months, ICE asked the City of Eloy to modify their existing agreement and add a second facility – in Texas.

Last month, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced that mothers who pass the first stage in the asylum process will be released with bail or on what are known as alternatives to detention, which include ankle monitors.

ICE has released about 500 mothers and children in the past two weeks, apparently a result of that announcement, said Brian Hoffman, the lead attorney for the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project.

Christina Brown, a volunteer attorney from Denver, said she had five  clients who were ordered released because of Friday’s ruling by a federal judge in California because the Dilley detention center is in violation of a 1993 settlement that governs the treatment of immigrant children.

Because the families are held in an unlicensed and “secure” facility they can’t leave, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee wrote, the government is violating the settlement, known as the Flores agreement.

The Express-News story continues: The agency(ICE) began holding families in those facilities last year after more than 100,000 women and children, most of them from Central America, were apprehended crossing the border in the Rio Grande Valley.

“Understanding the sensitive and unique nature of housing families, ICE is evaluating cases of residents at the agency’s family residential centers,” spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said. “Going forward, ICE will generally not detain mothers with children, absent a threat to public safety or national security, if they have received a positive finding for credible or reasonable fear and the individual has provided a verifiable residential address.”

Judge Gee said the government must comply with her order within 90 days, and she ordered officials to respond by Aug. 3.

Rob Milford is a news contributor for Breitbart Texas. You can follow him on Facebook.


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