31 Jul 2015

In the wake of a recent court ruling against detention for illegal immigrant families, a group of House Democrats are calling on the Obama administration to end family detention.

In a letter signed by 178 House Democrats to Homeland Security Sec. Jeh Johnson Friday, the lawmakers urge a prompt suspension of family detention.

“It is long past time to end family detention,” the Democrats, led by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), write. “In light of this recent federal court ruling, we urge you take all necessary and appropriate steps to bring the Department’s practices in line with the settlement agreement and the recent court ruling.”

Last Friday a U.S. District Court ruled that the detention of illegal immigrant families violated a 1997 settlement in Flores v. Johnson.

“Judge Dolly M. Gee found that the Department’s decision to house children in secure facilities that are not licensed by any State agency to care for dependent children violated the 20-year-old Flores settlement agreement,” the lawmakers elaborate. “The court also rejected the Department’s request to amend that settlement agreement in lieu of remedying the numerous violations.”

The lawmakers’ letter comes on the heels of a similar call from 136 House Democrats in May, also calling for an end to family detention.

“The purpose of the letter was to alert you to the strong evidence that such detention is detrimental to mothers and children and is not reflective of our Nation’s values,” the Democrats recall. “The detained population is largely comprised of refugees fleeing violence and persecution, many of whom have serious medical and mental health needs that have been inadequately addressed in custody.”

While Democrats call for an end to family detention, Republicans would like to see the administration fight the court decision.

Earlier this week House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte pressed Johnson to defend the policy, noting that detention represents “the best way to ensure that unlawful aliens show up for their immigration court date.”

“I request that, in your response and in any further proceedings with the District Court, you undertake an aggressive and vigorous defense of DHS authority to engage in detention of family units. I also request that, should the need arise, you request an emergency stay of any District Court order to do away with detention of family units, and appeal such a decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals,” Goodlatte wrote.