The detention of asylum seekers and immigrants at the Mexico border has been a nightmare. It is only worsened by the fact that children are separated from parents or legal guardians, stuck in shelters, and treated poorly. In light of this systemic abuse of the innocent, there are several lawsuit alleging that this approach is used as a punish kids and deport families.
Despite the fact that there is a legal mandate to place detained children in “the least restrictive setting,” NPR reports that there are at least four suits alleging that these kids are abused and locked away for months rather than being placed in the homes of relatives who already live in the United States.
Deporting the sponsors
The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit recently that alleges that U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS, ORR) is working with ICE officers to target family members who step forward to sponsor the kids. These residents are arrested and put in deportation proceedings. According to the reporting, 170 sponsors who stepped forward have been arrested so far.
This essentially means that ORR and ICE are using the children as bait to find undocumented immigrants. A memo from 2018 that outlined this approach and its predicted outcome of leaving the children in custody longer confirms this.
Kids finally being released
As of December of 2018 there were nearly 15,000 migrant children living in 130 shelters throughout the country. Some including the contractor running the largest shelter in Tornillo, Texas have opted to discontinue running these camps, which abruptly led to a streamlining of screening process for family members taking in kids. However, immigrant advocates are quick to point out that the system seems arbitrary and opaque. Regardless of those concerns, the bottom line is that number of immigrant dropped to about 10,000 by January 20.
This recent number is obviously still unacceptable. Families who wish to help detained children should contact a knowledgeable immigration attorney. They are following this issue closely and will have the most up-to-date strategy for getting those detained children out of a shelter and into a loving home.