President Donald Trump’s administration must stop detaining migrant children in hotels, a federal judge ruled on Friday.
The US Department of Homeland Security must stop hotel accommodation for children by September 15, ruled Judge Dolly Gee of the US District Court in Los Angeles. She also ordered the department “to transfer all minors – both accompanied and accompanied – currently staying in hotels to licensed facilities”.
The ruling was part of the judicial review of the so-called Flores Agreement of 1997 between the federal government and immigration lawyers, which stipulates a maximum prison term of 20 days for undocumented children at the border.
This was followed by a report in the New York Times in mid-August that the Trump administration found “at least 860 migrants in a Quality Suites in San Diego, in Hampton Inns in Phoenix, McAllen, and in El Paso, Texas, a Comfort Suites Hotel in Miami, a Best Western in Los Angeles and an Econo Lodge in Seattle. “
The detention of migrants destined for deportation included children aged 1
According to a statement by the National Center for Youth Rights, between April and July 650 children with a migrant background were detained by the federal government in motels before they were deported.
Rapid expulsions, enacted in March and partially facilitated by hotel stays, were intended to reduce exposure to coronavirus.
Gee wrote that children were held in hotels for “several days”. She said she was made aware of the practice of “using hotels to temporarily accommodate accompanied and unaccompanied minors until expelled” on July 22nd.
The judge said on her file that the government’s concerns about COVID-19 “were not an excuse for DHS to circumvent the basic humanitarian protections that the Flores Accord guarantees minors in their detention, especially if there is no convincing evidence that hoteling is safer than licensed facilities. “
The ruling provided an exception for hotel stays for “stays of one to two nights during transportation or before flights”. Children must be placed in a licensed facility within 72 hours of their detention or arrest.
The National Center for Youth Law described the judgment in a statement on Friday evening as a “big win”.
“The court ruled that the federal government cannot house or detain migrant children in unsupervised and unlicensed motels for weeks before they are expelled from the United States and confirmed that they should not be left in a legal no man’s land where they are not standards are enforceable, “it said.