The U.S. government is asking a federal court to reconsider allowing them to continue detaining an undocumented immigrant family along the southwestern border. The government was ordered to immediately release the families seeking refuge in the U.S. after a district court judge in California issued a severely critical order last month condemning the Obama administration for violating a decades-old agreement. The agreement outlined standards for keeping children in federal custody.
Attorneys from the Department of Justice formally responded late Thursday, arguing that the policies under contention were already outdated by the time the court reached its decision. They argued that if the judge’s orders were confirmed or supported, and the families were released, there would be serious repercussions.
The federal government poured time and money in building two new immigrant detention centers in south Texas that were designated to accommodate children in the course of a humanitarian crisis at the border. These detention centers were equipped with classrooms and playgrounds. More than 60,000 unaccompanied minors were captured after fleeing from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador in the last fiscal year.
According to administration officials, once the children completed the legal process, the vast majority of them would ultimately be sent back home. In reality the opposite was happening. USCIS (United States and Citizenship and Immigration Services) found that nearly 90% of women and children held in immigration detention centers expressed a credible fear of returning to their home countries – and so they could continue the process of seeking asylum.
Advocacy groups condemned the government’s response on Friday, arguing that family detention is a flawed policy that was hastily implemented. The number of families caught entering the U.S. has dropped down to more than 50% in the last year. With the flow of migration down, the groups say they want to see the practice of family detention abandoned entirely.
There are 178 House Democrats who have signed a letter calling on the administration to comply with Judge Gee’s order and release the roughly 1,700 women and children currently being detained.