Success and Impact

Monumental Victory for Youth Detained in Immigration Custody as Court Orders Government to Provide Due Process Protections

Child in a sweater looking down

Aug. 31, 2022
Contact: Willis Jacobson, National Center for Youth Law:

Tuesday’s preliminary injunction, issued by the U.S. District Court of Central California in the Lucas R. v. Azar case, marks a historic achievement for the rights and well-being of children in federal immigration custody. The injunction requires the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to provide youth in federal immigration custody due process guaranteed by federal law. It substantially expands the protections for youth who wish to challenge the government’s decisions around placement and release to family members. This injunction follows the Court’s order granting partial summary judgment in the case.

The ruling from Judge Dolly M. Gee, which takes effect in sixty days and remains in effect until a final order resolves this case, ensures that youth in federal immigration custody can appeal the denial of their safe and timely release to close family members. Additionally, youth in ORR custody will be able to appeal ORR’s decision to place them in restrictive and locked facilities such as juvenile detention centers, residential treatment programs, and "medium secure" facilities. 

Importantly, the injunction requires procedural protections for youth that have never been afforded, including, the right to counsel in appealing placement and release decisions, the right to inspect the evidence ORR used in making its decision, the right to present witnesses, and the right to present their challenge to a neutral decision maker. The government must also justify its placement decisions by clear and convincing evidence.

“I am thrilled that children will finally have meaningful protections in place if the government attempts to deny their release to family members or transfer them to more restrictive placements,” said Neha Desai, Senior Director, Immigration, National Center for Youth Law. “Securing ‘due process’ for youth may sound like dry legal jargon, but we have witnessed firsthand how the government’s decisions relating to the placement and release of children can devastate children and cause long-term harm.” 

“The children who filed this class action were incredibly brave and selfless. They filed this case years ago, knowing that they might not individually reap the benefit of a positive ruling. But they sued so that no child in the future would have to suffer prolonged detention without a fair process. Today they won significant legal protections for detained immigrant children and changed the legal landscape of children’s rights.” said Holly S. Cooper, Co-Director of UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic.

"The Court's injunction will have a tremendous impact on the lives of youth in immigration custody and will lead to more children being released to their families faster and fewer children suffering in restrictive placements,” said Michael McMahon, an attorney with Cooley LLP, which serves as co-counsel in the matter. “The Court’s summary judgment order in March 2022 affirmed the constitutional rights of these youth and this injunction lays out the important ways in which ORR must remedy its practices to ensure due process protections for children in their custody."

The injunction follows a lengthy legal fight that began in June 2018. In November 2018, five separate classes were certified and the case survived a motion to dismiss. Most recently, in March 2022, the Court partially granted Plaintiffs’ Motion of Summary Judgment. Plaintiffs in the case are still litigating claims to protect the constitutional rights of youth in ORR custody who are placed in or kept in restrictive facilities because of their disabilities and youth who are prescribed psychotropic medication while in custody.

Plaintiffs are represented by Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, National Center for Youth Law, UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic, and Cooley LLP.