Immigrant rights group files complaint against DHS, saying it holds immigrant children longer than legally allowed

Immigrant rights group files complaint against DHS, saying it holds immigrant children longer than legally allowed
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An immigrant advocacy group on Wednesday filed a civil rights complaint against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), accusing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of wrongfully detaining migrant children for longer than is legally allowed.

The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) alleged in a complaint filed with DHS’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties that five children at the Karnes County detention center in Karnes City, Texas, have been held for between 41 and 58 days.

The federal government is barred from detaining undocumented children for more than 20 days without releasing them into a sponsor's custody under the 1997 Flores settlement agreement.

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“RAICES has recently seen a disturbing trend in which DHS has detained children and their fathers at the Karnes Detention Center far longer than the 20-day period contemplated by the FSA,” the complaint says.

“RAICES alleges that through these actions, multiple components of DHS, including [U.S. Customs and Border Protection], ICE, and [United States Citizenship and Immigration Services] violate the civil rights and civil liberties of these children and their fathers,” it continues.

Five immigrant fathers and their children were mentioned in the complaint. The youngest child is 5 years old, according to the group.

One father said in a statement to RAICES that his 6-year-old son “used to be a very active and friendly boy” but has become “depressed.” The boy suffered stomachaches, fever and an allergic rash while in detention, according to the group.

"There is no reason to detain these fathers and their children in the first place, and their continued detention is is an egregious violation of rules meant to protect children," RAICES spokesman William Fitzgerald said in a statement.

"These families could easily be released to friends and relatives in the United States, where the fathers could navigate the asylum process and the children could receive adequate care and education. Instead, they are locked up and suffering every day," Fitzgerald added.

The group also asked DHS's civil rights office in its complaint to release the children to their fathers.

“We ask your office to compel ICE to follow its obligations under Flores and release these children to their fathers expeditiously,” the complaint reads. “We ask you to investigate other past and present violations of the Flores norm of releasing children and parents within 20 days at the Karnes Detention Center."

The Hill has reached out to the DHS for comment.