Mar 14, 2019
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.
\u201cBREAKING: Today, we filed a complaint w/DHS on behalf of families at Karnes.\n\nThey've been detained for 41-58 days. Kids are supposed to be held for 20 days MAX. \n\nTheir detention is completely illegal. They must be released immediately. #StoriesFromKarnes https://t.co/PLYSLMGTHP\u201d— RAICES (@RAICES) 1552520537
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.
\u201cOne father has been detained w/his 15 y/o son since Jan. 14\u201458 days.\n\nHis son is "sad & desperate." He hasn't spoken to his mother or sister in ages. He's been eating less.\n\nBoth have positive torture/persecution findings.\n\nDHS hasn't told us why they're still imprisoned.\u201d— RAICES (@RAICES) 1552520537
\u201cAnother father has a 6 y/o son who "used to be a very active and friendly boy" but is now "depressed" & "feels the heaviness of this place."\n\nThe son's had stomach aches, fever, & a rash.\n\nThey were detained 41 days before being separated. They're now in different centers.\u201d— RAICES (@RAICES) 1552520537
\u201cOne 5 y/o has had indigestion, chicken pox, the cold, & a continuous cough since he & his father arrived at Karnes. Medicine isn't helping.\n\nThe pair was put in medical isolation for 4 days.\n\nSince being detained, the son tells his dad: "Let\u2019s go, Dad. Let\u2019s get out of here."\u201d— RAICES (@RAICES) 1552520537
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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