ICE officers handcuffed, jailed detained kids on their 18th birthdays: report

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Immigration agents shackled and relocated detainees at a shelter for unaccompanied minor immigrants on the detainees’ 18th birthdays, according to a new report by the Miami New Times.

Since April, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have handcuffed and taken away at least 14 detainees on their 18th birthdays at the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, according to the report.

“When they turn 18, it’s basically, ‘Happy birthday,’ and then they slap on handcuffs and take them off to adult detention centers,” Lisa Lehner, an attorney with the nonprofit Americans for Immigrant Justice, told the New Times.


The detainees, now considered adults, were taken to a jail in Broward, north of Miami.

According to Lehner, the arrests violate legal precedents that regulate the detention of minors.

Under what’s known as the Flores settlement agreement, federal authorities are obligated to seek the least restrictive environment for minors under immigration detention and to seek out alternate housing — such as placement with relatives or foster care.

The 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) and a 2013 amendment to that law fortified the protections under Flores and obligated federal authorities to quickly find alternatives to detention for minors.

But the percentage of kids turning 18 in detention and being turned over to ICE has more than doubled since 2014, according to a report by news site Documented.

In 2017, 2.4 percent of minor detainees “aged out” and were arrested by ICE, compared to 1 percent in 2014, according to Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) numbers quoted by Documented.

ORR, which is housed under the Department of Health and Human Services, is the federal authority that is tasked with caring for unaccompanied immigrant minors once they’ve been captured by the Department of Homeland Security.

Although it’s up to ORR to follow Flores and the TVPRA to quickly place minors in housing alternative to detention, activists say the agency has slowed that process under President Trump, according to the reports.

Neither ORR nor ICE immediately responded to requests for comment on this story.

Activists have filed lawsuits to get the 18-year-olds released from prison.

Lehner told the New Times her organization has filed seven lawsuits for the detainees sent to Broward. Five detainees have been released to relatives or guardians, two cases are still pending, and the organization expects to file several more suits.

But according to the report, shelters across the country are seeing the same behavior.

Janet Gwilym, the managing attorney of Kids in Need of Defense, said ICE agents regularly show up at shelters at 11:30 p.m. on the eve of detainees’ 18th birthdays. At midnight, agents will shackle the now-adult detainees and take them to jail.

“I believe it’s a psychological strategy they’re using to try to get them to just give up and go back back home, even if they know they’ll be killed if they go back,” Gwilym said.

Tags Donald Trump Illegal immigration U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Unaccompanied minors
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