Families Remain Unjustifiably Detained in the Midst of a Pandemic; It’s Time to Hold ICE in Contempt

The Flores Settlement Agreement outlines standards that ICE must adhere to when it chooses to detain all children. For years, and most recently during the COVID-19 pandemic, ICE has repeatedly flouted its Flores obligations and numerous orders from Judge Dolly Gee to enforce the agreement. As legal service providers for detained families, RAICES, Aldea – the People’s Justice Center, and Proyecto Dilley have consistently shared information about the realities of family detention with Judge Gee as Amici in Flores. On August 7, 2020, after repeated findings that ICE was not in compliance with its Flores obligations, Judge Gee issued an order asking Class Counsel and Amici to provide the court with proposals to remedy the government’s repeated breach of the Flores Settlement Agreement.

RAICES, Aldea – the People’s Justice Center, and Proyecto Dilley jointly filed an Amicus brief on Friday, August 28, calling on the court to finally hold ICE accountable. The three legal service providers have asked Judge Gee to hold ICE in contempt and to consider remedies which will compel compliance with the Settlement and to ensure the protection of all children in the custody of the Government. We further agree with fellow Amici who called on the court to protect the children at the family detention centers and ensure that these detained families would not be forced to choose between separation or detention.

After the long history of this litigation, which has been continuously plagued by the government’s failure to abide by the court’s orders and the terms of the Flores Settlement Agreement, Amici believes contempt is the only option.

The well being of children in Government custody and family unity are the paramount concerns driving the Flores Settlement. It follows that the Government should share these concerns and comply with the Settlement’s provisions.

Months into the pandemic, more than 91 children remain detained at the family detention centers in Karnes and Dilley, Texas, and Berks, Pennsylvania. This is while COVID-19 has already infected more than 140 staff and detained parents and children at Dilley and Karnes. In June, Judge Gee determined the family detention centers are “on fire.” ICE’s continued refusal to free the families and insistence on bringing more families to the detention centers has only fanned the flames. The situation is dire; these families must be freed now, and they must be freed together.

RAICES, Proyecto Dilley, and Aldea will be providing an update on the situation at the family detention centers on Thursday, September 3, 2020 at 1:00 PM CDT via zoom.