As if the news of the United States government’s losing track of 1,475 unaccompanied minor children ostensibly placed with sponsors was not cause enough for concern, a recent proposal from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) seeks to further modify the latitude that the federal government is able to exercise over the treatment of child detainees. While still a working draft, the proposal is replete with potential modifications that would allow leeway for legitimized abuses of power that would appear to serve no purpose other than the exercise of that power. It is imperative that parents be aware of the proposed changes, so that they may be better prepared to work against them if it is ever required in their situation.
Transfers and Detentions
Perhaps the most immediate threat is that the proposal seeks to modify transfer regulations and to alter the rules surrounding separating families in detention. As of this writing, a document called the Flores Settlement Agreement serves as a federal consent decree governing the treatment and transfer of people in federal immigration custody, and limits the detention of children in immigration jails, instead requiring their transfer to a family residence facility within 5 days. The current administration would seek to relax that period, potentially opening the door to confining children of all ages in detention facilities, without access to important necessities.
The proposal also seeks to federally license these family residence facilities for long-term stays, meaning that more immigrants could be detained under the aegis of DHS, rather than allowed into the community. The administration even seeks to be granted the right to withhold food and snacks ‘in an emergency’; however, the definition of ‘emergency’ is deliberately vague, stoking fears that food would be withheld from vulnerable families essentially on the whim of whatever official might be in charge. Withholding food is a common tactic in U.S. prisons; however, this proposal would give such tactics legitimacy.
Definitions May Change
Perhaps the most dangerous change this proposal would make is to restrict the definition of ‘unaccompanied minor’ to those children who have no parents or guardians in the U.S. able to sponsor them. As of this writing, unaccompanied minors are any children who arrive at the U.S. border traveling alone, and this matters because unaccompanied minors are entitled to certain legal protections—for example, they can have their case heard by an asylum officer, rather than an immigration judge. Thus, the current administration seeks to restrict that classification as much as possible.
If somehow you are placed in this position, there are not many options that can be pursued. Children who are separated from their parents in these times are being re-classified as unaccompanied alien minors—a deliberately cruel move designed to rip families apart. Unaccompanied minors are generally sent to foster care facilities, with no links to any family. If the current administration wished to reunite families, this classification would not be made. It may be plausible to pursue a habeas corpus petition, which, if granted, releases the person named into petitioner’s custody. However, these petitions can take some time, and they do not always succeed.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
While this proposal must still pass through a public comment period and enshrinement in the Federal Register, being aware of such potentially cruel and unethical measures possibly coming to pass is critical for those who may wind up in the proverbial jaws of the machine. Having a dedicated attorney on your side can help matters, and ensure someone is fighting for you. The zealous Chicago immigration lawyers at Mevorah Law Offices LLC will work hard to try and protect your rights. Contact our offices today to set up a free consultation.
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