DHS Releasing ‘Family’ Illegal Immigrants

ICE Family Detention Centers (1)
AP Photo/LM Otero

The Department of Homeland Security is “diligently” complying with a federal judge’s order that prohibits the long term detention of illegal-immigrant families and children.

“In light of the October 23 deadline for compliance with the Court’s Flores Order, DHS has worked diligently to ensure that we are in compliance with all aspects of the Court’s Order,” Jennifer Elzea, a Customs and Immigration Enforcement spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement.

The detention centers are being converted into centers where migrants can be processed before being released into the United States for subsequent legal hearings.

In August, Gee rejected a Justice Department request that she reconsider the decision. Justice Department officials are appealing her decision. Officials did not ask appeals-court judges to freeze the order until the appeal is resolved.

DHS officials expanded family detention last year in response to the unprecedented run on the border by illegal immigrant adults with children. Since October 2013, more than 108,000 adults and children in “family units”  were apprehended while entering the U.S. Nearly all have been released to enter the United States. In August, only about 1,800 illegal immigrants were held in the detention centers.

Government officials say detention is a deterrent to the ongoing influx of illegal immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The deadline for the Obama administration to be in compliance with U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee’s was Friday.

In July, Gee ruled that the government’s expanded use of family detention centers to house illegal immigrant family units was in violation of a 1997 settlement agreement known as Flores vs. Meese. Gee demanded an end to family detention and the release of currently held families.

“We are taking steps to ensure compliance with the July 24 and August 21 orders issued by the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, which hold that a 1997 settlement agreement requires us to implement new detention policies,” Johnson said in September.

“We disagree with portions of the legal reasoning in the decision and have filed a notice of appeal preserving our ability to challenge those portions. But we remain committed to reforming our family residential center policies, as we have been doing for the past several months,” he added.

While DHS is complying, Republican lawmakers have urged the Obama administration to offer a strong defense to continue family detention, arguing that most illegal immigrants released to await immigration hearings fail to show up and that the end of such detention will lead to more illegal immigration.

“The Court’s decision, if left to stand, will essentially end the detention of family units,” the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) wrote in a letter to Johnson following the July ruling. “This will no doubt lead to large increases in the already excessively high numbers of aliens surging across the southwestern U.S. border and failing to appear for their removal proceedings.”

Democrats have been pushing for an end to detention, arguing that many of those detained are refugees and to detain them goes against the America’s values and is damaging to the welfare of those in custody.


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