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Judge orders U.S. to stop detaining migrant children in Texas & Arizona hotels

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AP photo via CNN
Protesters wave signs in front of the Hampton Inn hotel in McAllen, Texas.

HOUSTON, Texas — A federal judge ordered the Trump administration on Friday to stop detaining immigrant children in hotels before expelling them from the United States, saying the much-criticized practice skirted "fundamental humanitarian protections."

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ruled that the use of hotels as long-term detention spaces violates a two-decade-old settlement governing the treatment of immigrant children in custody. She ordered border agencies to stop placing children in hotels by Sept. 15 and to remove children from hotels as soon as possible.

Immigration agencies since March have expelled 148,000 people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border under an emergency declaration citing the pandemic. The Trump administration says people crossing the border without authorization threaten public health and must quickly be forced out of the country. Advocates for immigrants argue the administration is using the pandemic as a pretext to sidestep federal anti-trafficking laws and asylum protections.

To prevent them from being allowed to stay in the U.S., the Trump administration has taken at least 577 unaccompanied children to hotels since March, where they are detained and then typically placed on deportation flights. Most of the children have been placed in Hampton Inn & Suites hotels — two in Texas, one in Arizona.

That's instead of sending them to shelters operated by the Department of Health and Human Services, where minors receive legal services, education, and the chance to be placed with relatives living in the U.S. Those facilities are licensed by the states where they are located. More than 13,000 beds in HHS facilities are currently empty.

Gee's order directs the Trump administration to resume sending unaccompanied children to HHS, and it also applies to children with parents who crossed the border without authorization. It also gives lawyers who work with immigrant youths access to the children that the government is trying to expel under the emergency declaration. Separately, legal groups have sued the U.S. to prevent the expulsions of immigrant children altogether.

The government "cannot seriously argue in good faith that flouting their contractual obligation to place minors in licensed programs is necessary to mitigate the spread of Covid-19," Gee wrote.

Hotels can still be used for one- or two-night stays as part of travel between different places, she said.

The U.S. Justice Department did not immediately comment Friday, but government lawyers indicated that they would consider an appeal.

Private contractors at the hotels monitor detained children and families around the clock and generally don't allow people to leave their rooms. Families that have been detained in the hotels have told The Associated Press that they are served regular meals, but that the telephones have been removed from their rooms.

One father from Haiti alleged that before his family was taken from their room, a contractor gave him and his wife ice to swallow and to feed to their infant daughter, in case their temperatures were checked before boarding a flight. They were expelled to Haiti without the chance to request asylum.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement denied using ice as an artificial cooling measure. It has described the contractors from MVM Inc., as "transportation specialists" who "ensure each minor remains safe and secure while in this temporary housing."

The Trump administration has argued that Gee doesn't have the authority to stop the use of hotels because the children it is expelling fall outside a longstanding court settlement known as the Flores agreement. It has previously appealed several of Gee's rulings targeting detention practices.

Leecia Welch, an attorney at the National Center for Youth Law, called the ruling "a resounding victory for immigrant children."

"The government's attempt to use the pandemic as a subterfuge to carry out its ruthless immigration agenda clearly violates the rule of law and human decency," Welch said.

Associated Press

Comments

18 Comments

    1. Why would anyone want it overturned? It would be better for the children if they were in places they could get services and there are plenty of beds there for them at a much cheaper price to tax payers.

      1. How about where they came from to begin with comrade turner? Try not to be stupid turner. The reason they are in HOTELS is because obama did not fund enough of his cages to put these downtrodden. Your president did this. Best thing to do is build the wall and keep them out. Let THEIR country take care of them. We are not the world’s daycare.

        1. No, the reason they put them in hotels was to avoid doing their job in correctly administering the asylum request process and to prevent these kids from getting medical and educational attention available in the detention centers. Thats why the judge stopped it. There were, at the time of the order, 13,000 spots available in the centers and housing kids there would be much cheaper than renting a hotel room.

        2. They are in our country and need help. Most Americans are not anti-immigrant and therefore anti-American like you. This is their country now. True Americans welcome immigrants and are not xenophobic Nazi filth such as yourself. When you become accepting of immigrants then you can begin to say you are a real patriotic American. Until then, we all know what you are. The wall comes down beginning January 20, 2021. No more Nazis in control.

          1. Delusional much moron? The wall is staying up. Even crazy Joe was fact checked on that. Moot issue since JO HO 2020 is going to lose. Americans are against illegal immigration not your Democrap talking point immigrant. You are a terrible spinner. Nothing but fake news.

          2. Big difference between immigrants and ILLEGAL ALIENS. Stop intertwining the two. They are 2 completely different things. And this Asylum non-sense is NO argument. There are a lot S*** hole countries out there. We CANNOT take them all in. That’s the equivalent of people saying, “I don’t like my house any more. My neighbors house is better so I’m moving in”. IT’S O DIFFERENT. If they don’t like their country then they should do something to change it.

    1. Haven’t you noticed how many missing children have been found over the past few months? Since Epstein’s girlfriend was arrested the sex trade is falling apart. Democrats want these illegal alien children released onto the streets so they can scoop them up and make sure their Liberal pedophile funders get their needs met. Liberals are sick and vile.

      1. The worst part is the libturds wanting to change the laws to where it is legal to have sex with a minor as long as it is consensual. Now that is sick perversion.

    2. He detained unacompanied minors until they could be released to relatives or suitable sponsor families. He did not hold them hostage for political gain and xenophobia. Some were sent back.

      1. They ALL need to be sent back. The only political gain and xenophobia here was by obama and all the demoKKKrats. You should be happy since those same children are used by the demoKKKrats to presss your white hood dress.

          1. The vast majority of Americans are against illegal immigration. Big difference moron no matter how you try to spin it. Spin some more and reveal more of your ignorance.

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