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500-plus parents and children detained longer than allowed

Children walk to class at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. Lawyers say more than 500 parents and children have been detained longer than is allowed by a court order.
Children walk to class at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. Lawyers say more than 500 parents and children have been detained longer than is allowed by a court order. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

More than 500 parents and children have been locked up in two Texas family detention centers for more than 20 days – the limit allowed by a federal court order that goes into effect Friday, according to a coalition of pro-bono immigration lawyers representing families in detention.

The coalition, which includes the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Catholic Legal Immigration Network and Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education, charge the number of families detained more than 20 days shows that the Department of Homeland Security has not taken the necessary steps to comply with the court order.

It’s getting to that point where the government has to just acknowledge that this is not working.

Mohammad Abdollahi

“It’s getting to that point where the government has to just acknowledge that this is not working,” said Mohammad Abdollahi, advocacy director for RAICES. “They need to end the practice. It just needs to end.”

As of this week, the Obama administration is holding 461 children and parents at the Karnes County Residential in Karnes City, Texas, and 1,558 at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. An additional 56 people are being held at the Berks County Residential Center in Berks County, Pa.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee gave the federal government until Friday to release families “without unnecessary delay” after finding that the Obama administration’s family detention policy violated an 18-year-old settlement on detaining child migrants. She allowed the government 20 days under special circumstances to conduct health screenings and determine whether family members are eligible to remain in the United States.

Federal officials said they disagree with the court’s ruling and are appealing it. But they are also working to comply with the order.

“In light of the October 23 deadline for compliance with the Court’s Flores Order, DHS has worked diligently to ensure that we are in compliance with all aspects of the Court’s Order,” Marsha Catron, DHS press secretary, said in a statement.

The numbers were compiled by the client databases of the CARA Family Detention Pro-Bono project and cross referenced with federal detainee locator system, according to Lindsay Harris, a legal fellow at the American Immigration Council.

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