A federal judge in Los Angeles County has ordered the Office of Refugee Resettlement to notify detained immigrant minors and their counsel when it decides against releasing them to parents or relatives and provide reasons for withholding release, according to court papers obtained Thursday, Aug. 31.
The order by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee further requires the ORR to inform the minors and their lawyer that they have a right to inspect the evidence which ORR based its decision upon. If the denial of release is solely because the “minor poses a danger to self or others,” then the decision may be appealed, according to the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law.
In June 2018, the Center for Human Rights, the National Center for Youth Law and others filed a class-action lawsuit in L.A. federal court on behalf of unaccompanied immigrant minors detained by the ORR for alleged violations of due process and the Immigration and Nationality Act. A message sent to ORR requesting comment was not immediately answered.
The complaint alleged that ORR regularly “steps up” children from state-licensed shelters to highly restrictive juvenile halls and psychiatric detention facilities as dangerous or flight risks without affording them a meaningful opportunity to be heard regarding the reasons for restrictive placement; the office prolongs children’s detention on the grounds that their parents or other available custodians are unfit yet denies children and their proposed sponsors a meaningful or timely opportunity to be heard on the matter; and ORR involuntarily administers powerful psychotropic medications to children without procedural safeguards and without the consent of their parents, even when those parents are readily available to grant or withhold consent.
On Tuesday, the court issued a nationwide preliminary injunction requiring the ORR to notify detained immigrant minors and their counsel when it decides against releasing them to parents or relatives and provide reasons for withholding release.
The judge also ordered that the ORR must demonstrate “clear and convincing evidence that sufficient grounds exist for stepping up or continuing to hold a minor in a restrictive placement,” according to the Los Angeles- based Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law.
Further, a notice must be provided to minors, their parent or legal guardian and their counsel no later than 48 hours after the “step up” and every 30 days thereafter.