Lawyers representing U.S. immigrant families posed a direct challenge to the lawyer, who has served as a pioneering judge for decades with migrant minors, and accused him of not doing enough to ensure that parents and their children Coronavirus pandemic to be released from government detention together.
Lawyers of the nonprofit organizations that provide legal services in the three detention centers for family immigrants in the United States filed an application for intervention in the Flores Settlement Agreement on Monday, which has been regulating the care of migrant children in US custody since 1997. Peter Schey, the co -Counsel, in the case that paved the way for the Flores Agreement, on behalf of three minors in family custody for working with the government on a process that they say parents should choose to allow their children should be released without her or detained indefinitely.
The groups, the Refugee and Immigration Center for Education and Legal Advice (RAICES), and Aldea – the People's Justice Center and law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, asked Judge Dolly Gee of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to enable them to support parties in the Flores case to oversee its enforcement and address the "adequacy" of Schey's position as a senior lawyer on behalf of immigrant minors.
"It is unclear why the class council is in favor of approving the separation of (children) from their accompanying parents or waiving their rights under the (Flores) contract, which will inevitably result in indefinite detention under unsafe, unsanitary and unlicensed conditions of a pandemic as the only alternative, "the organizations wrote in their file, referring to Schey. He did not immediately return a call to receive a Monday submission comment.
The Flores consent decree obliges the government to request the rapid release of minors from immigration detention. In 2015 judgments, Gee ruled that the protection of the agreement applies to minors detained with their parents, not just those who arrive at the border unaccompanied, and that the government generally doesn't take children longer than 20 days may be held in unlicensed family detention centers. The three family detention centers overseen by U.S. immigration and customs officials are not licensed.
RAICES and Aldea represent families in Karnes City, Texas and Leesport, Pennsylvania detention centers. There are currently around 300 parents and children in ICE family custody. The average age of minors in the Karnes family detention center is 4 years, according to court records. The plaintiffs in the petition to intervene in the Flores case are a baby on the verge of becoming a 1-year-old and an 8-year-old being treated for tuberculosis.
The main dispute between the two groups and Schey, who has been known as an advocate for migrant children for decades, stems from an order issued by Gee last month. Citing the growing number of coronaviruses in ICE detention centers, Gee ordered the agency to release all minors who have been detained for more than 20 days. According to the file filed on Monday, at least 79 coronavirus cases were reported among employees and detainees in family detention centers.
Because she lacks the authority to order the release of adults who are not covered by the Flores Agreement, Gee said ICE has two options for doing so. The agency could share the families and exercise their adult release authority, or ask the parents if they would consent to their children being released without them to a sponsor like a family member living in the United States.
Ministry of Justice lawyers have signaled in several court files that ICE does not intend to release all families. Instead, the government and Schey have been working on documents that would allow parents to waive their children's right to be released, as well as a process to ask parents if they would allow their children to be released without them.
RAICES, Aldea, and the other nonprofit that offers direct legal representation to detained families, Proyecto Dilley, have spoken out vigorously against these decisions, describing them as inherently enforced and involuntary options that could separate families. In their Monday submission, the groups also said that there is no way for parents to make knowing decisions, as they have received no information about the "legal ramifications of such a choice".
"(Children) are offered the" option "to either separate from their parents, which is well documented to cause lifelong trauma, or extended detention, which is additionally documented to be lifelong Trauma causes exposure to a deadly virus, "the groups wrote, adding that they communicated privately with Schey about their concerns about his approach.
Schey previously told CBS News that he would prefer ICE to share families. However, since the agency rejects this, he believes that parents who would rather let their children be released than keep them in custody should be able to do so partly by lawyers, not just the government.
The legal service providers also criticized Schey on Monday for requesting together with the government that Gee extend the deadline for compliance with their June regulation from July 17-27. Gee has responded to this request last week and RAICES and Aldea want her to reconsider.
"The class council has worked with the government to extend the detention of its own clients in institutions with active COVID 19 outbreaks," the groups wrote in their request for intervention.
In addition to the litigation in Los Angeles, there is a case before the US District Court in Washington, DC, in which a judge this week should rule on whether continued family detention violates their constitutional rights.