Judge Orders DHS to Provide Housing for Illegal Immigrant Children

A federal judge has ordered U.S. border officials to “expeditiously” relocate illegal immigrant children from “inhumane” makeshift open-air sites along the southern border in California.

The 12-page order issued on Wednesday directs the Biden administration’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to treat the migrant children who entered the United States unlawfully with the same protections offered under the longstanding Flores Settlement Agreement.

The Flores Agreement, a 1997 class action settlement, requires the U.S. government to provide basic services to illegal immigrant minors by providing housing in “safe and sanitary” facilities.

The plaintiffs brought the lawsuit on Feb. 29, alleging that children who crossed the border illegally were being detained in “inhumane conditions” at open-air sides near the California-Mexico border, prompting public health and humanitarian concerns noted by advocates in sworn declarations.

The DHS didn’t dispute the facts presented but argued that the agency lacks jurisdiction because the U.S. Border Patrol “does not have legal custody over the minors.”

U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee of the Central District of California concluded in her 12-page order that while illegal immigrant children at the outdoor staging areas in Southern California have not been formally processed yet, they are still in the legal custody of the U.S. since their movement is controlled by Border Patrol agents.

The judge cited declarations from advocates that children living at seven sites near San Diego and the remotely located Jacumba Hot Springs weren’t receiving adequate food, with one example given of detainees being given “one pack of crackers” and a bottle of water each per day.

The sites were also said to lack enough dumpsters and portable toilets, while the ones they did have were “overflowing and unusable” due to not being “serviced frequently enough.”

“This means that the [open-air sites] not only have a foul smell, but also that trash is strewn about the [sites], and Class Members are forced to relieve themselves outdoors,” the judge noted in her order.

Migrants who unlawfully enter the United States in Southern California can sometimes wait for days before they are processed by Border Patrol. This is because migrants are illegally crossing at higher volumes than federal detention facilities are capable of holding them, according to a sworn declaration in a court filing. The areas where they live while awaiting processing are the sites at issue in the lawsuit.

The judge ordered that all minors detained at the seven open-air detention facilities be classified as Class Members, as defined in paragraph 10 of the Flores Agreement.

“DHS shall expeditiously process all Class members in their custody,” per the agreement, the judge ordered.

“DHS shall place Class Members in facilities that are safe and sanitary and that are consistent with DHS’s concern for the particular vulnerability of minors.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents “shall cease” holding minors in open-air sites except for “the amount of time DHS reasonably requires” to actively arrange their transport to “a more suitable facility.”

DHS is also required to keep records on minors in CBP custody for more than 72 hours and provide the minors contact with family members who were arrested with them.

The judge has ordered an interim report to be submitted to the court by May 10, which will provide an update on the number of minors who are currently staying in open-air sites.

This ruling has been made in the midst of a heated political and cultural discussion surrounding the rights of migrants who enter the United States without permission.

In a statement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection stated that it is currently reviewing Judge Gee’s ruling.

The agency also stated that it will “continue to transport vulnerable individuals and children encountered on the border to its facilities as quickly as possible.”

From The Epoch Times

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