In 2014, millions of families from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala fled unspeakable violence in their home countries to seek safety in the United States. In response to this refugee crisis, the Department of Homeland Security made the tragic decision to open temporary detention facilities in New Mexico and Texas to house thousands of mothers and children. The government tagged the families in these detention facilities as number one priorities for removal from the United States. Their cases were accordingly rushed through the system, in many cases without access to counsel and without bond. It quickly became clear that the government’s goal was to remove these women and children – with complicated and viable asylum claims – from the United States as quickly as possible.
Although the detention facility in Artesia, New Mexico closed, the one in Texas remains open and continues to detain families arriving daily. This month, however, DHS announced its determination that reconsideration is appropriate for custody decisions of arriving families who have established eligibility for asylum or other relief under United States immigration laws. Going forward, ICE will generally not detain mothers with children, absent a threat to public safety or national security, if they have received a positive finding for credible or reasonable fear and the individual has provided a verifiable residential address. DHS will also be releasing eligible family units after reviewing their cases for these same requirements.
There is still much work to be done in defending and representing the rights of the families detained at these facilities, but we hope this development marks the beginning of the end to family detention.
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