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Following Court Ruling, Immigration Judges In Texas Have Begun Ordering The Release Of Women And Children From Family Detention

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A federal judge’s decision last Friday that detaining mothers and children violates a 1997 court settlement is already having a “groundbreaking” effect, said the Huffington Post earlier today.

Citing the 1997 Flores Agreement, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ruled last week that hundreds of families currently held in detention facilities in Texas and Pennsylvania must be released by the federal government.

While the judge gave the federal government 90 days to prove why the families should still remain in family detention facilities, her decision is already having an immediate effect on some families who have been fighting for release.

From the Huffington Post:

Immigration judges in Texas have begun ordering the release of women and children from detention without bond following a court ruling on Friday that advocates said they hope will end family immigrant detention.

All nine women and their children who appeared for bond hearings at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, on Monday were ordered released without bond or an ankle monitor, according to the immigrants’ attorneys. The outcomes marked a sharp turnaround from the long waits and burdensome bonds that judges often issued prior to last week’s ruling by a federal judge that families should be released.

“That’s the first time this has happened,” Andrew Free, an attorney who represents women and children locked up at the largest U.S. family detention center, told The Huffington Post. “This is groundbreaking.”

“In the past, we’ve been able to get conditional parole for extreme hardship — medical cases, family unification,” said Brian Hoffman, an attorney who has been coordinating pro bono representation for detained women and children at the Dilley, Texas facility.

“Today, we got it for everybody. No monetary bonds at all were set and we think that’s all the judges can do in light of this federal court ruling that it’s illegal for these people to even be detained here.”

Advocates for detained women and their children hailed Judge Gee’s decision.

Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard, Luis Gutiérrez, and Zoe Lofgren, who were part of the Congressional delegation that visited two detention facilities in Texas last June, said:

Friday’s ruling confirms that the U.S. Government is wrong to hold vulnerable women and children – regardless of their immigration status – in secure, jail-like facilities. Furthermore, Judge Gee rejected the Administration’s defense that family detention is necessary to deter future migration. We wholeheartedly agree with – and applaud – this decision.

Rep. Linda Sánchez, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said:

“The federal ruling by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee confirms what we’ve known for a long time now: family detention centers should be closed.  It is unconscionable that we are imprisoning mothers and children who pose no risk to our national security.

Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, said:

“Hopefully, the court’s decision will end the suffering and further traumatization of these families. The detention of families is unnecessary, inhumane, and unworthy of our nation.”