Because Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy defends migrant adults, families and children in Charlotte’s Immigration Court, we are extremely concerned by the Trump administration’s recent decision to indefinitely detain migrant children who cross the U.S.-Mexico border.
This week, the Trump administration announced a new immigration rule that attempts to override policy set by the Flores settlement to allow the administration to keep families in detention facilities while they fight their asylum cases.
The Flores settlement has prohibited the U.S. government from detaining migrant children for more than 20 days. The Flores settlement was reached because of the inhumane conditions in detention centers and because of the special psychological and emotional vulnerability of children.
The administration’s unilateral repeal of the Flores settlement is a shameful attempt to prevent Central Americans from availing themselves of our country’s asylum laws and to punish them and their children for seeking asylum by keeping them incarcerated. It is unacceptable.
The new regulations will further erode families’ ability to seek legal assistance, which is critical for anyone seeking relief in our immigration courts. Most detention facilities are in remote areas where few, if any attorneys practice, making it difficult for detained people to get representation. Only those who can afford an attorney can get the legal assistance they need.
All migrants, even children as young as 3 and 4, are expected to fight their own immigration cases against the government if they cannot find or afford an attorney.
The administration has claimed it is pursuing this policy in order to avoid “having to separate families [and] allow families to be released as they wait for their cases to be heard.”
There is no law that requires the Department of Homeland Security to hold asylum seekers pending trial. Contrary to what this administration would have us believe, the Department of Justice’s own statistics show that most respondents show up to their hearings in immigration court.
Those rates were even higher for respondents who participated in the Family Case Management Program, a program that was started in 2016. Instead of incarcerating immigrants at the cost of hundreds of dollars a day, immigrants were released and assigned a case worker who made sure they understood how immigration court works and what their rights and obligations were. The program cost about $36 per person per day and had a compliance rate of 99 percent. The Trump administration discontinued the Family Case Management program in favor of incarceration.
Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy believes all people, especially vulnerable children, deserve legal assistance when their safety is on the line. That’s why we advocate for migrant adults, families and children, most of whom, have been subjected to some form of trauma over the course of their young lives.
Their cases will take years to process through an overburdened immigration court system. Now this administration wants to detain them indefinitely as they wait for their day in court.
This is unacceptable. As a community and nation of immigrants, we can do better.