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Women and Children Still Detained Despite Federal Court Ruling

Recently, informed visitors about an immigration court victory in California, where U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ruled that the U.S. government is violating a 1997 settlement agreement because the government is detaining undocumented foreign national women and children in facilities with poor conditions.

The good news was that the Judge ordered the government to release the majority of these detainees. The bad news is that immigration attorneys are reporting that the government hasn’t established criteria for who can be released and when, which has resulted in significant obstacles for the attorneys to secure their clients’ release.

The Problem

New York attorney Luis Mancheno informed the Texas Tribune that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is releasing detainees but not informing them or their attorneys as to why they are being released. Without this information, the attorneys are left without the knowledge of how ICE is qualifying a detainee for release and whether any of the attorneys’ other clients may similarly qualify for release.

While Judge Gee gave the government until the end of October to release the undocumented foreign national women and children, the only stipulation given by the court was to keep in detention those who pose a danger to themselves or the public, or who pose a flight risk. As of today, the government has not expounded on this directive nor provided instructions or guidance on how the mass release will be effectuated.

However, Attorney Mancheno went on to report that he and the other attorneys feel that ICE agents are looking at more than just these two factors when deciding whether to release or detain a foreign national. Specifically, the attorneys observe that ICE agents also seem to be taking into account the likelihood a person’s case will succeed in immigration court.

What Happens Upon Release

When a foreign national is released from detention, the individual must agree to appear before the immigration judge on the date of the national’s deportation hearing. To help ensure the foreign national appears, approximately 80% of released detainees are fitted with ankle monitors. Many immigration rights advocates criticize the use of ankle monitors as unnecessary. In addition, ICE also equips many people with GPS tracking devices, which are criticized as dehumanizing and an unacceptable form of supervision.

While ICE has other methods at its disposal to monitor released detainees, the ankle monitors and GPS trackers are the most popular methods under the agency’s Alternatives to Detention program.

As of July 2015, there were nearly 50,000 immigration court cases for undocumented women and children. Since the immigration court system continues to be overloaded and understaffed, it is likely that those who have been lucky enough to be released will remain in legal limbo for several years.

The Rant

ICE should act as soon as possible to promulgate guidance or instructions to its agents on the proper procedures for evaluating a foreign national’s eligibility for release from detention. The fact that the affected population in this situation is women and children makes the agency’s delay all the more deplorable. Continue to check our blog for more information on the latest immigration developments.

More Blog Posts

The Government’s War on H-1Bs, ImmigRantings, October 11, 2012
Obama Signs Immigration Policy Memo, ImmigRantings, June 15, 2012
Problems with the H-1B visa: From Work Horse to Show Pony, ImmigRantings, February 13, 2012