Immigrant Children Locked Up In Juvenile Detention Centers without Committing Crimes
On July 10th, Mother Jones ran an important story on immigrant juveniles being locked up in U.S. juvenile prisons without having ever committed any crimes. According to the report, they aren’t locked up in just any juvenile detention center; but rather, facilities that have reputations for abusing the children kept there.
According to the report, there are currently a number of claims that the Office of Refugee Resettlement is holding mass numbers of immigrant children in jail-like conditions at these juvenile detention centers and similar facilities, claiming that they are dangerous and refusing them the right to refute allegations made against them. Reportedly, some have even been sent to psychiatric facilities, where they are forced to take powerful psychotropic drugs without first giving their consent.
What the Law Dictates
Under the law, the only circumstances under which a minor can be held in juvenile hall are if they have committed a violent crime or threatened violence. After 30 days at any one of these facilities, the Office of Refugee Resettlement is supposed to review the child’s case and consider whether they can be released or moved to a low-security shelter, and if the child believes he has been committed in error, they have the right to file an action in federal district court.
Civil Rights Violations
These minors have arguably been the victims of indefinite civil commitment without the due process of law; unable to be released until deemed fit, but denied the administrative hearings necessary to make their case. This not only violates the Fifth Amendment, which mandates due process of law, but a 1997 federal court decision (Flores) which limits the detention of immigrant minors and requires those that are held to be kept in the “least restrictive settings possible.” Reports out of these facilities are that these children, their parents, and any relevant attorneys have not been given the opportunity to participate in any proceedings. Minors held in the facilities have reported back that they aren’t even told that they have the right to file an action and seek counsel, where a significant majority of them are found to be not dangerous.
Now, many believe that the Office of Refugee Resettlement is indefinitely detaining these minors and depriving them of their rights all while making it so very difficult for parents and other guardians to take these minors back. Not only must family members produce documentation proving that they are financially secure and safe, but families must also allow inspectors into their homes and everyone in their household to be fingerprinted.
A number of parents have been turned away because they are deemed “unfit” by the authorities, as justified for the following reasons:
- A mother denied because officials found gang graffiti several blocks from her home;
- Parents turned away because they could not pay for medication the children were forced to take while in custody; and
- Others told that they cannot have their children back because they already have too many young children living at home.
Florida Civil Rights Attorney
If you or your child has been illegally detained, contact the Baez Law Firm in Orlando today to find out how we can help.