Despite the right wing lie that Obama is rolling out the red carpet for illegal immigrants, the administration made the choice to detain mothers and children fleeing violence in Central America, often in terrible conditions. A federal judge has now issued a preliminary injunction forbidding such action pending a full trial.
On Friday, a federal court temporarily halted the Obama administration’s policy of detaining migrant mothers with children seeking asylum in the United States.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit in December alleging that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) locked up women with children who were seeking asylum under their new “no release” policy, often in prison-like conditions for months at a time. The policy was adopted as part of the Obama administration’s “aggressive deterrence strategy” in response to the influx of Latin American migrants who crossed the southern border last year, as a way to deter future migrants from making the trek. The ACLU stated that in years past, detainees who were able to express “credible fear” that they would be persecuted in their homelands were released on bond or on their own recognizance.
Advocates have heavily criticized family detention facilities in Artesia, New Mexico and Karnes, Texas for its treatment of detainees, including children who slept in freezing “ice-box” conditions, women who never received the opportunity to get legal representation, and attorneys who weren’t allowed to talk with their clients. Artesia shut down in November 2014, though another family detention center in Dilley, Texas soon opened up afterwards.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg wrote in his decision, “The evidence that they [the ACLU] present suggests that a large number of asylum-seeking families from Central America are currently being detained as a result of DHS’s deterrence policy. Such detention harms putative class members in myriad ways, and as various mental health experts have testified, it is particularly harmful to minor children.”
Each of the plaintiffs in this suit was determined by DHS to have a credible threat of persecution and violence if they were returned and all of them had relatives in the United States who were willing to give them housing while they awaited the required judicial asylum hearing. But despite that, DHS still refused to release them on bond, which is what normally would happen if those two conditions are met. And this was done to deter future arrivals, which seems unlikely to be effective.