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Rights Group Charges Trump's Prolonged Detention of Children 'Completely Illegal'

"We hope this complaint begins a serious attempt to end to family detention, once and for all."

Bianey Reyes and others protest the detention of children on June 19, 2018 in El Paso, Texas. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

An immigrant rights group on Wednesday filed a civil rights complaint against the Department of Homeland Security, arguing that the Trump administration is blatantly flouting the Flores agreement—the law that dictates how long the U.S. government can keep children in custody.

The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) says that five children have been held at a detention center in Karnes City, Texas for at least 41 days, with at least one held for nearly three months. The prolonged detention is a clear violation of Flores, which prohibits the government from holding children for longer than 20 days, the group argued.

RAICES wrote in its complaint that the group had taken note of the "disturbing trend" at Karnes Detention Center and called for the immediate release of the children, who are as young as five years old. Most of the children are being held with their fathers but some of the families have been separated since first being detained.

"All children in detention, even those detained with their parents, have the same rights under Flores," RAICES wrote. "The Flores agreement states that a child must be released from detention 'without unnecessary delay' so long as they do not pose a flight risk or danger, i.e. they must be released within 20 days. Prolonged detention of children, even with their fathers, is a clear violation of Flores."

On Twitter, RAICES shared a number of #StoriesFromKarnes to call attention to the daily suffering of families who are being held indefinitely by the Trump administration.

RAICES' concerns for the well-being of the children at Karnes and in other detention centers echoes those of whistleblowers within DHS, who have warned that prolonged detention "poses high risk of harm to children and their families."

Calling on DHS's Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to investigate all complaints of violations at Karnes and to ensure that the children are released to sponsors, RAICES said in a statement that the group aims to end the detention of families for any period of time.

"RAICES is against family detention, period," the group said. "The practice is abominable and retrograde. The United States is worse off because of it. We hope this complaint begins a serious attempt to end to family detention, once and for all."

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