Federal Judge Appalled by Government’s Lengthy Detention of Immigrant Children

Monday morning in a Los Angeles federal courtroom, Judge Dean D. Pregerson became the first judge of any kind (federal, immigration or state) to give a hearing to four Central American children (ages 3, 4, 8 and 16) who have been detained at Berks Family Prison for the past two years. The children all have approved Special Immigrant Juvenile Status petitions, which means that the federal government has affirmed that they are vulnerable children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned, and they qualify for “green cards” on that basis. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has taken the position that, essentially, the children can be detained and deported up until the moment that they have their green cards in hand. Attorneys for the children argued that this violates a consent decree entered into by the government.

Government attorneys argued that the attorneys for the children did not “meet and confer” with them sufficiently to go before the judge. The children’s legal team, made up of attorneys Bridget Cambria, Jackie Kline, Carol Anne Donohoe, and Karen Hoffman, were previously refused a meeting by the government on five separate occasions, in addition to having filed parole requests on behalf of the children every 30-60 days for two years, filing three separate federal court cases, and attempting to take the children’s case up to the Supreme Court of the United States, which declined to review the holding of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that the children are not entitled to habeas corpus review (which SCOTUS has recognized as “the fundamental instrument for safeguarding individual freedom against arbitrary and lawless state action.” Harris v. Nelson, 394 U.S. 286, 290-91 (1969)).

Berks attorneys (from left to right): Karen Hoffman, Jackie Kline, Carol Anne Donohoe and Bridget Cambria

Judge Pregerson reportedly questioned the government as to why the children had been detained for such a long period of time, and stated that the situation is “fundamentally wrong on so many levels.” His decision is forthcoming.

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Amy Maldonado is an immigration attorney. She tweets from @AmyMaldonadoLaw.

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