Agreement Will Remain In Place Until All Families Have Been Released
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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials today struck a deal to extend an agreement requiring ICE to maintain improvements in the conditions at the T. Don Hutto family detention center in Texas and submit to external oversight until the last family is released from the facility.
The deal comes on the heels of an announcement Thursday that the government will immediately begin ending the detention of families at Hutto, the focus of 2007 lawsuits filed by the ACLU charging that children were being illegally imprisoned under inhumane conditions. The last family is expected to be released from Hutto no later than the end of the year.
"No young child should ever have to endure imprisonment in an adult prison," said Vanita Gupta, staff attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice Program and a lead attorney in the Hutto litigation. "Now that the long-overdue decision has been made to end the detention of families at Hutto, the government is to be commended for wanting to ensure that the improvements in the facility's conditions that have been made during the past two years remain in place until there are no families left there."
The ACLU's lawsuits were filed on behalf of 26 immigrant children between the ages of one and 17 detained with their parents who, in almost all cases, were seeking asylum. A settlement agreement reached several months after the lawsuits were filed mandates, among a number of other things, that children be given expanded educational programming and increased recreation time outdoors. The agreement was set to expire August 29.
The decision to end family detention at Hutto was made as part of a broad government plan to improve the immigration detention system. According to the plan, officials will work to consolidate many detainees in facilities with conditions that reflect their status as non-criminals, establish more centralized authority over the system and create more direct oversight of detention centers.
The plan also calls for ICE to stop sending families to Hutto, and to relocate the remaining 127 detainees there. Some will be transferred to an 84-bed facility in Pennsylvania, while others will be considered for programs that do not require detention, such as home and electronic monitoring.
Attorneys involved in the Hutto litigation include Gupta of the ACLU's Racial Justice Program; Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project; Lisa Graybill of the ACLU Foundation of Texas; Sean Gorman for Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP; and Barbara Hines of the University of Texas School of Law Immigration Clinic.
A copy of the stipulation is available online at: www.aclu.org/immigrants/detention/40645lgl20090807.html
Additional information about the ACLU's Hutto litigation is available online at: www.aclu.org/hutto