Posts Tagged ‘violence’

The Government Continues to Ignore the Rights of Children in Detention, Court Finds

Jueves, julio 13th, 2017
 The Government Continues to Ignore the Rights of Children in Detention, Court Finds

Written by Karolina Walters

Despite being among some of the most vulnerable, children seeking asylum in the United States often fare the worst. Upon entering the United States, children are often detained for extended periods in violation of a long-standing agreement known as the Flores settlement.

The Flores agreement essentially acts as a contract between the government and children held in immigration custody. On Tuesday, a federal district court judge ruled once again that the government is failing to meet its obligations to children held in immigration custody.

The court found a number of violations, including holding children too long in detention, in substandard conditions, and in non-licensed facilities. In addition, the court ruled that the government is required to look at each child’s case individually to determine whether release from custody is appropriate—the government may not rely on any blanket standard to avoid the responsibility of assessing each case individually.

The Flores agreement is a nationwide settlement reached in 1997. In this settlement, the government agreed that children taken into immigration custody would be placed in the “least restrictive setting appropriate to [their] age and special needs” and would be released “without unnecessary delay,” preferably to a parent. The settlement also requires that if a child is not released to a parent, adult relative, or an appropriate guardian, children must be placed in non-secure facilities licensed for the care of dependent children within five days of apprehension.

Two years ago, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL), on behalf of immigrant children, brought suit to enforce the Flores settlement. In July and August of 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Dolly M. Gee said the government must apply the settlement to all minors, including those detained with family members. Tuesday’s order from Judge Gee outlines the particular ways in which the government is in breach of the Flores settlement and how the court seeks to ensure compliance going forward.

For example, the settlement requires that children be released “without unnecessary delay,” subject to certain exceptions in the settlement agreement, including “in the event of an emergency influx of minors into the United States.” In her August 2015 Order, Judge Gee ruled that, based on extenuating circumstances, if at the current time “20 days is as fast as [the government], in good faith and in the exercise of due diligence, can possibly go” that time frame may be in line with the Flores agreement.

However, in Tuesday’s order, the court found that even if the court makes allowances for an “emergency influx,” the government is still not complying with the Flores agreement, because many children were being held even beyond the 20-day period.

To correct this and the other violations, the court ordered that the government identify a Juvenile Coordinator within 30 days of the order, to monitor compliance, as provided for under the Flores agreement itself. After a year, if the court determines that the government is still not substantially complying with the agreement, the court will consider appointing an independent monitor.

Judge Gee’s order makes clear that the government is not honoring its contract and must be held accountable. As put most succinctly by Judge Gee: “Defendants entered into the Flores Agreement and now they do not want to perform—but want this Court to bless the breach. That is not how contracts work.”

It remains to be seen how the government will respond and whether it will honor its commitments under the Flores agreement, but the order is a long-sought victory for the fair treatment of some of the most vulnerable among us—children held in immigration custody.

Photo by European Commission DG ECHO

Publication Date: July 13 2017

Parents Risk Prosecution for Helping Children Seek Safety in the United States

Lunes, julio 10th, 2017
 Parents Risk Prosecution for Helping Children Seek Safety in the United States

Written by Royce Murray

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials recently confirmed their plans to initiate criminal prosecutions and deportation proceedings against immigrant parents and guardians who help bring their children to the United States through the use of smugglers or traffickers. Reports indicate that these enforcement actions are already underway.

The ostensible goal is to disrupt smuggling networks that sometimes victimize these children by punishing the adults who may have arranged the trip. However, it’s unclear how DHS might assess whether a child’s guardian was party to the smuggling or was aware that their child was intending to migrate at all. Advocates for immigrant children are already observing new questions being asked of children during interviews with government officials including who made and paid for their travel arrangements.

Whether the government obtains credible evidence that stands up in court remains to be seen. Yet what’s missing from this punitive approach is a nuanced understanding of the impossible choice parents often face: whether to let their child remain in a home country at grave risk of harm or help them embark on a dangerous journey in the hope that their child reaches safety.

No parent deserves to face harsh punishment for trying to protect their child. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics condemned this new enforcement initiative:

It is difficult to imagine what it would be like to be a parent who lives in fear for their child’s life, health and safety every day. For these parents, it is not a choice to bring a child to our country, it is a last resort effort to save his or her life. Fleeing violence, persecution and brutality, even if it involves sending the child alone on a dangerous journey, is not a choice.

If ICE follows through on these prosecutions, the consequences could be dire with more children left in government custody at taxpayer expense.

When children arrive at the border without a parent, they are transferred to a shelter run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as deportation proceedings are initiated against them.

The child remains in custody until and unless there is an opportunity to safely release them into the care of a parent, family member, or other sponsor. For those children who do not have a family reunification option, foster care is explored.

The immigration status of the sponsor has never been a relevant factor; what matters most is the best interests of the child, which usually calls for reuniting with family who can assist them with recovering from past harm and navigating the complexities of seeking asylum or other relief from deportation.

Thus the consequences of this policy shift are bound to be profound. If a parent or sponsor is undocumented and at risk of having their immigration status shared by HHS with the Department of Homeland Security for the purpose of deporting them or referring them for prosecution on smuggling charges, they may avoid coming forward to care for these children, leaving them to languish in shelters or be unnecessarily placed in foster care.

The only deterrence the administration will likely accomplish is impeding parents and caregivers from coming forward to take custody of children in need of shelter.

If a house was on fire, we would never lock the doors to keep children inside. Nor would we punish those who seek to help the victims escape the flames. And while the most important task may be to put out the fire, we wouldn’t make children stay in the house until the fire is extinguished. Why treat children fleeing violence any differently?

Rather than punishing parents and guardians, the best solution to ending the migration of unaccompanied children from Central America is to address root causes of violence in the region. But while these systemic efforts are critical, they can’t come at the expense of those who need safety now.

Photo by Giles Douglas

Última Actualización: Julio 10 de 2017