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Class Action Proceeds for Immigrant Children In Custody

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on May 02, 2019 9:00 AM

A federal judge certified a class-action lawsuit to protect unaccompanied immigrant children in government detention centers.

In J.E.C.M. v. Hayes , the plaintiffs seek the "prompt release" of immigrant children and to reunite them with their families. They say current policies and practices violate the Due Process rights of children waiting for immigration proceedings.

It is not the first lawsuit to allege wrongful conduct at America's border crossings, where an increasing number of migrants wait to enter the country. But it is a painful reminder that children have been dying there.

Near the Border

On Christmas Eve last year, an 8-year-old boy died in U.S. custody at a New Mexico hospital. He was the second child in three weeks to die while being detained near the border. In the meantime, the Southern Poverty Law Center put together a massive complaint on behalf of countless other children detained by the Trump administration. A judge in the Eastern District of Virginia said they may proceed.

The complaint alleges the Office of Refugee Resettlement has wrongly separated children from their families, and seeks their prompt release. The plaintiffs also want the ORR to reverse its policy of sharing identities of family members with immigration enforcement officials. "The court's granting class certification today ensures we will be able to continue to fight for the children who languish in detention centers across the country," said Mary Bauer, deputy legal director of the SPLC. "As we move to the merits of this lawsuit, we look forward to exposing the perverse government policies that keep children locked up and separate them from their families."

Border War

Trump has famously waged a border war on immigrants since he took office in 2017. If his so-called "Border Wall" is a monument to his determination, it is also a memorial to the children caught in the cross-fire. As the battle has moved to courtrooms, some children have been reunited with the families. Meanwhile, estimates say about 15,000 children are housed in federally contracted shelters.

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