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Federal Judge Orders Trump Administration to Stop Detaining Immigrant Children in Hotels

A US federal judge has denied the Trump administrations request to continue detaining unaccompanied immigrant children in hotels as opposed to licensed facilities.

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    Unaccompanied Minors to Stop Being Detained in Hotels

    US district Judge Dolly M. Gee has ordered the Trump administration to cease detaining unaccompanied migrant children in hotel rooms under a private contractor run program.

    Hundred’s of unaccompanied minors have been detained in hotels in the US awaiting deportation, but judge Gee’s order has put a stop to this claiming the program wasn’t in line with “policies designed to prevent abuse in federal custody”.

    Why are children being detained in hotels?

    Since March, at least 577 unaccompanied children have been detained in hotels to prevent them from being allowed to stay in the U.S, they have typically then been places on deportation flights. The Trump administration has claimed this program to be part of a public health measure to ban immigration during the Coronavirus pandemic.

    Federal officials insisted that detaining children in hotels was necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in immigration detention centers.

    But the judge that has ordered this program to stop said that this reasoning was “bewildering” and there was no evidence to suggest that detaining unaccompanied children in public hotels limited the spread of coronavirus.

    Judge Dolly Gee

    (Image credit: NY Times)

    Judge Gee found that the program violated the Flores Settlement, an agreement from 1997 that sets national standards on the treatment, detention and release of immigrant children in federal custody. She said:

    “This Court…recognizes that the pandemic may require temporary, emergency modifications to the immigration system to enhance public safety, but that is no excuse for DHS to skirt the fundamental humanitarian protections that the Flores Agreement guarantees for minors in their custody, especially when there is no persuasive evidence that hoteling is safer than licensed facilities.”

    What’s the difference between hotels and other shelters? 

    Unlike hotels, licensed facilities that are operated by the Department of Health and Human Services allow children to receive legal services, education, and the chance to be placed with relatives living in the U.S.

    Over 13,000 beds in facilities like these are currently empty.

    The private contractor operating the program that detains children in hotels also employ staff with only two days of training, with only a small amount of that dedicated to child development and care.

    How did the Trump administration respond to the order?

    The U.S Department of Homeland Security have not publicly commented on the judges decision, but the government did try to convince Gee to extend the time given for the program to stop, which she refused to do.

    The government then appealed the order with the Ninth Circuit but this has been rejected.



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