A federal court certified as a class action an SPLC lawsuit challenging the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement’s (ORR) policies and practices regarding the release of unaccompanied minors and the reunification of immigrant families – a ruling with the potential to help end the prolonged detention of immigrant children across the United States.
The lawsuit, J.E.C.M. v. Hayes, was certified a class action by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia last week. Congress enacted laws specifically to protect unaccompanied immigrant children, establishing a preference for release over lengthy detention and requiring that ORR promptly reunite children with loved ones in the United States while their immigration cases are adjudicated.
“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 Southern Poverty Law Center. “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.”
In February, the SPLC, Legal Aid Justice Center and Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox PLLC filed this lawsuit on behalf of immigrant children in Virginia in government custody, and their families. It seeks the prompt release of children to family members available to care for them, and for ORR to reverse its current policy of sharing the identities of family members with ICE for immigration enforcement purposes.
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