Illegal alien children who cross the United States border with their mothers can no longer be held in detention centers supervised by the federal government and run by private operators, according to a decision by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee on Friday.
Gee ruled that the current practice of the U.S. Department of Justice, which involves housing illegal alien parents and children in the detention centers,a violated a settlement in a 1997 case titled Flores V. Meese. The settlement said migrant children had to be released to foster care, relatives or the least restrictive environment possible in centers that were licensed to house children. Gee extended that ban to children accompanied by a parent.
In April, Gee ruled that the federal government could not detain mothers and children who claimed they were fleeing violence in their home countries and asked the Department of Justice and illegal immigrant advocates to reach an agreement within 30 days. She rejected the Department of Justice’s assertion that the detention centers were necessary to slow the flow of illegal immigration and house the immigrants while their cases were being reviewed.
On Friday, Gee threatened the Department of Justice, giving the department one week to show why she should not implement her ruling within 90 days.
The three detention centers in question are located in Texas and Pennsylvania; they have held over 2,000 women and children after the recent massive illegal immigration from Central America.
The Justice Department had argued it was necessary to modify the settlement and use detention to try to deter more immigrants from coming to the border after last year’s surge. The department also argued that it was an important way to keep families together while their immigration cases were being reviewed, but the judge rejected that argument in Friday’s decision.
The possible ripple effect from Gee’s decision could include releasing the illegal immigrant mothers and their children into the community or releasing the children while holding the mothers.