A coalition of human rights organizations is suing the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Los Angeles, seeking access to records pertaining to the detention and release of immigrant families at the border.
The suit was filed late Wednesday in Los Angeles federal court. In early August, the coalition submitted a Freedom of Information Act request with the Trump administration, seeking information regarding family detentions and the government's failure to release migrant children, but received no answers.
The plaintiffs -- including Southland organizations Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, El Rescate and the California League of United Latin American Citizens -- argue that detained families should be released together to secure legal representation and prepare their cases for the immigration courts.
A message sent to DHS/ICE seeking comment was not immediately answered.
“By disclosing all instructions and directives now being relied upon to detain children and families, all interested parties, including child welfare experts, doctors, therapists and lawyers assisting detained children, will be far better informed regarding how and why detention decisions are being made at a national level,” said Peter Schey, counsel for the coalition and one of the lawyers for detained minors in the Los Angeles-based Flores case, which set the standards for the detention and prompt release of detained minors who are not flight risks or a danger.
“With this information, children's advocates will engage in meaningful discussions with the Biden administration to wind down President Trump's senseless, harmful and costly policy of massive indiscriminate family detention,” Schey said. “The bottom line is that children and families who are not a flight risk or a danger should be released together.”
The plaintiff organizations are opposed to the lengthy detention of migrant family units who are neither a flight risk nor danger. Under Trump, children and families were detained for many months before finally being released or deported.
“Children should be able to grow up with their families, friends and communities -- not be detained based solely on their immigration status,” said Denise Bell, a researcher on refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International USA, one of the requesting parties in the lawsuit.
“Nothing is stopping ICE from freeing families together, but it has chosen again and again to make it as difficult as possible to release children with their parents so they can be together and safe,” Bell said.
“This lawsuit builds pressure on ICE to answer with transparency and accountability for these policies so that the United States can finally do what is best for these children -- to give back their freedom and return them to communities in the United States ready to welcome them home.”