In a major victory for immigrant children, U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee has determined that the federal government failed to meet its obligations to children in immigration custody. Judge Gee found that the government is unnecessarily delaying the release of children, “stepping up” children to more secure facilities without justification and without providing the children meaningful notice to challenge those placements, and administering psychotropic medications to the children without the consent of their legal guardians or a judicial order as required under state law.
The ruling  comes in response to a motion , filed by NCYL and co-counsel the Center for Human rights and Constitutional Law, and the Immigration Law and Civil Rights Clinics of University of California Davis School of Law, to enforce the Flores Settlement, which governs the conditions under which immigrant children may be detained.
The judge issued orders for the government to comply with the agreement including ending the policy of requiring various services to be in place before a child can be released from custody and requiring the director of the Office of refugee resettlement (ORR) to approve the release of any child that was ever in a staff-secure or secure facility. Judge Gee found both of these practices were preventing the timely release of children.
The Judge also ordered the government to release children held in secure facilities solely on the government’s belief that they might commit crimes. According to Judge Gee’s ruling children can only be held in these conditions if they can actually be charged with a crime. The judge specifically cited the use of alleged gang affiliations as insufficient to place children in lock down facilities.
Finally, the court found the administration of psychotropic drugs at the Shiloh Residential Treatment Center in Texas, violated state law and ordered ORR to obtain permission from the child’s legal guardian or to obtain a court order before administering these drugs to detained children. The judge also indicated that this finding could apply to other facilities administering drugs with additional evidence.
The judge limited her remedies to what is clearly laid out in the Flores Settlement agreement. We believe the children, their families and advocates should have the ability to make timely challenges to the conditions of their detention. To accomplish this we filed an amended complaint  in June seeking to expand due process protections for these children under the fifth amendment of the US constitution.