Family Detention ‘Deplorable’ Says Judge

By Rachel Nusbaum,

Calling conditions “deplorable,” a federal judge ruled late Friday that children from Central America held in family detention centers should be released as soon as possible. Judge Dolly Gee said conditions at the centers failed to meet the standards set by an 18-year-old legal settlement regarding the detention of women and children and ordered the government to release the mothers and children currently being detained, unless there is a flight or a security risk.

“It is crucial to remember that this issue is about families, and there is no good way to do family detention,” said Melanie Nezer, vice president for policy and advocacy at HIAS. Nezer, who has represented women and children who were kept in the jail-like facility in Artesia, New Mexico (which was closed in late 2014), stressed the importance of the decision for asylum seekers and those who help them navigate the legal world in which asylum claims proceed.

“This recent ruling illustrates what immigration attorneys and advocates around the country already know—detention should only be used in rare cases,” said Nezer. “Even then, our approach must be continually reviewed to ensure we are not a country that jails women and children seeking safety.”

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