Judge blocks new rules for detention of migrant children, parents

U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee. Photo credit: Wikipedia

U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee. Photo credit: Wikipedia

The Trump administration is barred by federal court order from enacting new rules aimed at detaining migrant children and their parents for longer periods of time.

U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee issued the permanent injunction on Sept. 27 in the Central District of California, The Washington Post reports.

The Justice Department had argued for withdrawal from a 1997 federal consent decree setting basic standards for detaining migrant children. 

“The decree includes a 20-day limit for holding children in detention facilities that have not been licensed by the states for the purpose of caring for minors,” The Post reports.

Federal regulators issued new regulations in August seeking to terminate the settlement and remove the 20-day limit, The Post reports.

The bleak state of the immigration court system

markus-spiske-1475927-unsplashA recent article by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) outlines the current state of the immigration court system and it is bleak: “In a report released earlier this year, the American Bar Association described the U.S. immigration court system as facing an ‘existential crisis,’ an ‘irredeemably dysfunctional’ system ‘on the brink of collapse.'”

The report notes a backlog of 900,000 cases quoting The Economist: “People will die of old age in America before they ever acquire the legal right to live in America. This is an extraordinary failure to govern.”

According to the article, Trump’s new regulations have just exacerbated the problem, comparing the complexity of the immigration courts system to the tax code. They also note that the massive backlog of cases “have led to judges rushing to complete cases, compromising their ethical obligations and violating immigrants’ due process rights…”

Deportation order for 11-year-old draws attention to courts’ woes

Laura Maradiaga-Alvarado, 11, was ordered deported without her family. Photo credit: Fiel Houston as reported by NBC News.

Laura Maradiaga-Alvarado, 11, was ordered deported without her family. Photo credit: Fiel Houston as reported by NBC News.

The near-deportation of a solitary 11-year-old child earlier this year highlights, critics say, the backlogs and turmoil surrounding federal immigration courts.

“A federal immigration judge in Houston signed a deportation order for Laura Maradiaga-Alvarado, originally from El Salvador, on March 12,” explains an NBC News article.

In the wake of publicity about the child’s plight, the judge ordered a new hearing scheduled for May 20, officials said.

“The deportation order has been attributed to a mistake made after a hearing scheduled in February for the girl, her mother and her sister was delayed by the government shutdown,” the article notes.

A March report by the American Bar Association indicated “that since its 2010 review of the court system, things had worsened ‘considerably,’” NBC News reports.

“The same issues identified then persist nearly a decade later: inadequate staffing, training and hiring; growing backlogs; inconsistent decision patterns among judges, particularly in asylum cases, and adoption of video-conference technology that impedes fair hearings. The situation, it said, has been exacerbated by years of congressional inaction while enforcement has increased under the Trump administration,” the article notes.

DACA program, upheld by 9th Circuit, faces its day in Supreme Court

Photo Credit: Darin Moriki/Bay Area News Group as reported by The Mercury News, 11/8/18.

Photo Credit: Darin Moriki/Bay Area News Group as reported by The Mercury News, 11/8/18.

The subject of continued court battles, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program could see its fate decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“An Obama-era program granting hundreds of thousands of so-called Dreamers protection from deportation will live on, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday, dealing the Trump administration a significant blow and setting the stage for a showdown in the Supreme Court next year,” The Mercury News reported on Nov. 8.

“The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a nationwide injunction blocking the White House from rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has protected about 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, including 200,000 in California,” The Mercury News reported.

The Atlantic speculated about how the legal battle could play out at the nation’s highest court.

“The Court could do a number of things. It could grant a stay, which would temporarily stop further legal proceedings or the enforcement of orders. If a stay isn’t granted, confusion could reign, with DACA continued in some states and not in others. In any case, at least five justices would have to agree on next steps, and with a split Court a consensus would be difficult to achieve,” The Atlantic noted.

‘Dreamers’ could see fate resolved by Supremes

Photo Credit: Julián Aguilar/The Texas Tribune as reported in The Texas Tribune on 7/31/18.

Photo Credit: Julián Aguilar/The Texas Tribune as reported in The Texas Tribune on 7/31/18.

The future of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, will become clearer as federal courts wrestle with the Obama-era initiative to shield young immigrants from deportation. And the U.S. Supreme Court may end the controversy once and for all.

The Washington Post reports that on Friday, Aug. 17, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates ruled that the Trump administration must continue processing renewals but that the administration can halt new applications for “Dreamers” while DACA is under appeal.

“Bates is one of the federal judges presiding over four different lawsuits aimed at maintaining or eliminating DACA, which was created by executive order by President Barack Obama and then ended by President Trump,” the Post reports.

The Texas Tribune notes that on Aug. 8, federal District Judge Andrew Hanen was scheduled to hear the state’s request for a halt to the program preliminarily “while the issue meanders its way through the federal court system.”

The fate of DACA could ”end up in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court,” the Texas Tribune reports. “In June, the Department of Justice asked Hanen to delay a possible injunction ‘so the United States can seek stays of all the DACA injunctions in the respective courts of appeals and the Supreme Court,’” the Tribune notes.

Trump administration cites success in migrant-family reunification effort, but what of ‘deleted families’?

Photo Credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre/For The Washington Post as reported on 7/28/18.

Photo Credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre/For The Washington Post as reported on 7/28/18.

By Thursday, July 26, when a court-ordered deadline loomed for the Trump administration to reunite hundreds of migrant families, government officials reported compliance.

The Washington Post reported on 7/26, “At the expiration of a 30-day court deadline to reunite migrant families separated during its ‘zero tolerance’ border crackdown, the Trump administration said Thursday it has delivered 1,412 children to parents in immigration custody and was on track to return all of those it determined were eligible for reunification.”

“President Trump ordered an end to family separations June 20 amid public outcry and spreading criticism within his own political party, as searing accounts emerged of traumatized children and anguished parents. Within days, Judge Dana M. Sabraw of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, a Republican appointee, ordered the government to return children to their parents and imposed deadlines,” the Post reported.

However, some families, termed “deleted family units,” could not be reunited by the deadline. There was no classification for more than 2,600 children who had been separated from their families and placed in government shelters. According to a The Washington Post report on 7/28, when Customs and Border Protection “sent that information to the refugee office at the Department of Health and Human Services, which was told to facilitate the reunifications, the office’s database did not have a column for families with that designation.”

“After his 30-day deadline to reunite the ‘deleted’ families passed Thursday, U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw lambasted the government for its lack of preparation and coordination,” reported The Washington Post.

The article continues, “‘There were three agencies, and each was like its own stovepipe. Each had its own boss, and they did not communicate,’ Sabraw said Friday at a court hearing in San Diego. ‘What was lost in the process was the family. The parents didn’t know where the children were, and the children didn’t know where the parents were. And the government didn’t know either.’”

ACLU alleges abuse of children by Customs and Border Protection

University of Chicago Law School students review documents with professor Claudia Flores, the director of the school's International Human Rights Clinic. (Photo credit: Lloyd DeGrane / University of Chicago Law School as reported by The Chicago Tribune )

University of Chicago Law School students review documents with professor Claudia Flores, the director of the school’s International Human Rights Clinic. (Photo credit: Lloyd DeGrane / University of Chicago Law School as reported by The Chicago Tribune )

Immigrant children who crossed the border suffered abuse and neglect from federal officials, according to a report released May 23 by the ACLU’s Border Litigation Project in partnership with the University of Chicago Law School.

“Elbowing children in the stomach. Lifting a child by the neck. Kicking a child in the ribs. These are all things the American Civil Liberties Union says immigrant children who crossed the border alone experienced while in custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” The Chicago Tribune reports.

Unaccompanied children who cross the border are placed in juvenile detention centers while they await court decisions on whether they can be released to a relative in the U.S., or if they will remain in custody or be deported.

The allegations stemmed from a review of 30,000 pages of documents by three law students, according to Claudia Flores, director of the University of Chicago’s International Human Rights Clinic.

Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Daniel Hetlage said in a statement that the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General completed an investigation and found that the claims were unsubstantiated.

Supreme Court strikes down bond hearings for detainees

Supreme_Court2In a major immigration case, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Jennings v. Rodriguez, a class action lawsuit challenging the federal government’s practice of jailing immigrants while they litigate their deportation cases. It ruled that detainees held by the government for possible deportation are not entitled to a bond hearing even after months or years of detention. Civil rights advocates, such as the ACLU, question whether it is constitutional to “lock up immigrants indefinitely.”

The Washington Post reported on the Feb. 27 ruling, noting, “In a splintered 5 to 3 decision, the court’s conservatives said that the relevant statute does not even ‘hint,’ as Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote, at the broad reading of the right to bail hearings adopted by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.”

The American Civil Liberties Union argued, “In the appeals court, we fought for and won on the principle that immigrants should be given the opportunity to present their case to a judge, allowing that judge to decide whether the detainee could be released without risk of flight or threat to public safety.”

Massachusetts’ Top Court Nixes Immigration ‘Holds’

Photo Credit: The badge of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Fugitive Operations team is seen in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

Photo Credit: The badge of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Fugitive Operations team is seen in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017.
Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

The top Massachusetts court has ruled that police and court officers do not have authority to detain undocumented immigrants until federal law enforcement officials can take them into custody, a controversial practice called a “hold” that is debated around the country. It is believed to be the first time a state supreme court has ruled to ban the practice and the Reuters news service says the “… decision amounts to a rejection of requests by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for courts and law enforcement agencies to hold illegal immigrants, who are facing civil deportation orders, in custody for up to 48 hours after their cases are resolved.”

The court ruled that ordering the hold amounts to a “fresh arrest” and said there is no authority to do so. News organizations quoted ICE officials as saying they are reviewing the decision.

Read the Reuters story here: Massachusetts cannot hold immigrants so U.S. can detain them: state top court

In Texas, That ‘Other’ Supreme Court Immigration Ruling Looms Large

A U.S. border patrol agent looks over the Rio Grande at the border between the United States and Mexico, in Roma, Texas. The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a U.S. border patrol officer accused of shooting a 15-year-old Mexican on Mexican soil has to stand trial. CARLOS BARRIA/REUTERS

A U.S. border patrol agent looks over the Rio Grande at the border between the United States and Mexico, in Roma, Texas. The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a U.S. border patrol officer accused of shooting a 15-year-old Mexican on Mexican soil has to stand trial.
CARLOS BARRIA/REUTERS

The recent Supreme Court decision upholding parts of President Trump’s travel ban earned most of the national media’s attention, but another ruling on border issues may also have huge impact. Newsweek magazine explains that “…. the ruling in the case of a teenager shot dead on Mexican soil by a U.S. border patrol officer in 2010 will have consequences for law enforcement along the border… the Supreme Court ruled that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals must consider the case, rejecting the lower court’s previous ruling that upheld the immunity from prosecution of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Jesus Mesa Jr., who fatally shot a 15-year-old Mexican, Sergio Adrian Hernández Guereca, under his left eye.

The FBI had previously cleared the agent of any wrongdoing, and the government had defended his immunity from civil lawsuits. The family and immigration advocates are welcoming the ruling and note that it will help determine future border agent practices.

See the Newsweek story here:

Trump’s efforts to restrict immigration from Mexico are hitting a legal wall in Texas