Sunday, August 2, 2015
On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee announced her ruling that hundreds of women and children held in what she described a "deplorable" immigrant detention centers be released. Judge Gee has given the Obama Administration until tomorrow to respond to her plan, which would be implemented within 90 days absent further order.
Ruling under the Flores settlement which Plaintiffs sought to enforce, the judge found that the government violated the settlement agreement by failing to release women and children from detention. Female headed households are to be released under the terms of the 1995 settlement. In addition, the children are being held in secure facilities, again in violation of the settlement agreement.
The government does not dispute that children are being held in secure facilities. Judge Dee referenced evidence presented by the Plaintiffs showing the extended detrimental psychological, developmental and physical harm that children suffer from confinement in a secure facility.
Detainees supported allegations of substandard conditions. Many submitted affidavits describing the freezing cold conditions of confinement where they were given nothing but an aluminum foil blanket that was inadequate to protect from the cold. Others reported mothers and their children being held from one to three days in a small holding areas with up to 100 unrelated individuals in the room. The crowded conditions forced many, including children, to "sleep standing up or not at all".
The description of other conditions, such as hygiene, are equally disturbing. And so are the reported human interactions. When individuals being detained asked for food and drink they were told that "it wasn't their country, it wasn't their house."
Under what circumstances would the U.S. government ever believe that any of this treatment is acceptable? We might find out tomorrow.