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Court outside North Carolina orders release of immigrant children

In 1997, a settlement was reached in a lawsuit, known thereafter as "Flores," that defined the legal requirements which must be met at detention centers that are housing children. A judge in a state outside North Carolina recently ruled that immigrant children had been housed under deplorable conditions at Border Patrol stations. The judge found that, even in temporary holding facilities, there are requirements regarding safety and sanitation to which authorities must adhere.

The recent court decision holds that the two holding centers have not met even minimum legal requirements in the detention of a group of mothers and their children. The judge determined that the 18-year-old judicial settlement does not only apply to children crossing the border unattended by an adult, but to children who are emigrating with their parents as well. Further, it was ordered that children are not to be kept in prison-like structures and that facilities holding children must be licensed to care for children.

Some advocates have called for the Texas detention centers to be closed. It was reported that approximately 2,600 mothers and children have been detained at the two centers and another in Pennsylvania in 2015. Homeland Security spokesmen said that the detentions were meant to discourage others from attempting to cross the nation's borders without documentation. Reports indicate that many of the women and children held in the facilities have become ill and have suffered from severe emotional distress.

Under the Flores settlement, if a mother does not pose a security risk, she and her child are to be released from a holding facility. In the instant case, the judge has given those in authority one week to release the women and children from the detention centers. An immigrant child who is unaccompanied by his or her mother, and who has no known relative to whom he or she can be released, is to be placed in a non-secure facility that is licensed to care for children. Persons in North Carolina facing immigration or naturalization issues are entitled to contact a legal professional experienced in immigration law.

Source: The New York Times, "Judge Orders Release of Immigrant Children Detained by U.S.", Julia Preston, July 25, 2015

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