Despite efforts by immigrant advocates to end family detention, the government’s practice of detaining immigrant mothers and their children continues. CLINIC has been especially active in the national fight to eliminate large scale family detention centers built in response to the increase of Central American families seeking refuge at the U.S./Mexico border during the summer of 2014. In late March 2015, CLINIC partnered to form the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Representation and Advocacy Project with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), American Immigration Council (AIC), and Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Service (RAICES). As part of the CARA Project, CLINIC has two contract lawyers on the ground at the South Texas Family Residential Facility (“Dilley”) located in Dilley, Texas. CLINIC, through the CARA Project, has been providing legal services and running a pro bono project for detained families within Dilley. CLINIC and CARA also train lawyers and Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) accredited representatives, and lead advocacy and litigation efforts to challenge unlawful asylum, detention, and deportation policies.
Such advocacy activities have included submitting complaints to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) regarding inadequate medical care for detained mothers and children and access to counsel issues, and meeting with Jeh Johnson, DHS Secretary in a private meeting to discuss family detention concerns. CLINIC continues to advocate for an end to the inhumane practice of family detention with government stakeholders, participating in monthly White House Access to Legal Counsel meetings, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) NGO Working Group meetings, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Asylum Working Group meetings, and DHS CRCL meetings.
On the ground, CLINIC staff members have had an extremely meaningful impact, serving approximately 5,000 women in preparation for their credible and reasonable fear interviews, in partnership with our CARA Pro Bono Project partners. Various CLINIC staff members have also travelled to Dilley to work in assisting the CARA Pro Bono Project.
Coupling the work of CLINIC and the CARA Pro Bono Project have been litigation efforts to end family detention by national advocates. In February 2015 advocates filed a motion to enforce the Flores Settlement on behalf of detained mothers and children in the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California. In April 2015, the U.S. District court issued at tentative ruling that family detention policies violate Flores. In July 2015, the U.S. District Court issued a court order requiring children no longer be detained long-term within the detention facilities.
In August 2015, the government argued that family detention was still necessary and the U.S. District Court responded that children must be released from family detention facilities and that the government must comply with the order by October 23, 2015. Currently, the government continues to imprison mothers and children, and the detained population has increased in Dilley since the issuance of the order from the U.S. District Court.
The family detention landscape continues to change. Moving forward, CLINIC will continue to work for an end to family detention and see that immigrant women and children receive meaningful access to justice. Part of this work on the ground will largely be through our partnership in the CARA Project. For more information about CLINIC’s family detention project, please visit our website. Consider volunteering your time or making a donation to support vulnerable mothers and children through the CARA Project.