It is critical that families in U.S. detention centers — nearly 90% of whom are asylum applicants and have escaped horrific gender and gang violence — remain together outside of the detention setting.
Child survivors of trauma need their mothers’ love and support outside of the restrictive and disempowering settings of family detention. The detention of children, and the overall detention of families, needs to stop immediately.
We need your help now to ensure children are not separated from their mothers.
On Aug. 21, U.S. District Court judge Dolly Gee issued her second ruling regarding the U.S. government’s practice of child detention. In her first ruling, Judge Gee called the use of family detention centers — in which mothers and children who crossed the U.S. border while fleeing violence are detained for months at a time — a clear violation of Flores, a court-ordered settlement from 1997 that narrowly limited the circumstances in which children can be detained.
Under Flores, government officials must make every effort to release the child to a parent, close relative, or guardian. As such, according to Judge Gee, barring flight risk, children should be released from family detention immediately.
In response to Gee’s first ruling, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) asked for a reconsideration and claimed the processing time had been streamlined, with 60% of mothers and children being processed in less than two weeks.
Even if this were the case, two weeks in the jail-like conditions of family detention are still extremely retraumatizing to mothers and children who have just fled violent surroundings and gender-based violence.
In her second ruling, Judge Gee rejected the government’s request for reconsideration, calling the government’s arguments “repackaged and reheated.” She ruled that the federal government has until Oct. 23 to comply with the ruling and release all children within 72 hours of their detention, unless there is significant flight risk (in which case the timeline may be extended to 20 days).
DHS responded that they would “continue to disagree with the court’s ultimate conclusion” and expressed a determination to continue their current family detention policy.
We applaud Judge Gee’s ruling. Please join us in urging DHS to immediately release all children with their mothers. The original Flores decision was made in the interest of family unity, and it needs to be upheld.