Culture Strike

Judge Orders Release of Immigrant Children and Mothers From Detention

A federal judge ruled against the Obama administration’s current system of family detention late Friday, saying that it violated minimum requirements for conditions for children held in federal immigration custody, particularly provisions requiring that minors be placed in nonsecure facilities run by agencies licensed for child care.

That secure private prison complexes are inherently unable to be child-appropriate settings should really come as a surprise to no one.

The long overdue decision affirms what Cristina Parker at Grassroots Leadership points out thousands of immigration advocates across the country have been saying for over a year now: that existing federal requirements regarding the treatment of unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border (which require such basic protections as a policy favoring quick release, proper physical care and maintenance, and legal services) also protect children caught with their parents.  In other words, it is now mid-way through 2015 finally illegal to hold any child in secure, unlicensed private prison facilities and deny basic protections whether or not he or she is accompanied by a parent.

You can read the reaction from Texas advocates here.

This is a huge deal. The ruling demands the release of the nearly 2,600 women and children being held in “widespread deplorable conditions” at federal immigration detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania. It is a significant legal blow to the mass detention policies ordered by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson last summer, which have multiplied ever since. And it is hopefully a needed financial blow to the private prison contractors that ran the facilities in which these families have been held — as well as to the fast-growing, multi-billion dollar immigration detention industry, that as Juliana wrote earlier, profits off of the incarceration of people of color.

The administration has until Monday to respond to Judge Gee’s order, and 90 days to appeal her ruling. Advocates are urging the Administration not to appeal this decision and to immediately close all three family detention camps. They’re also reminding folks that we need to vigilantly follow this during the next months to see how the Administration actually handles the release of these families.

But despite the fact that we’ll need to wait and see how quickly the overdue releases take, a huge ongoing shout out is in order to advocates who have fought hard for this win and to the mothers in detention who staged hunger strikes and forced the issue into the national spotlight.

Header Image Credit: CultureStrike’s Project, “Visions from the Inside”


Mahroh is a community organizer and law student who believes in building a world where black and brown women and our communities are able to live free of violence. Prior to law school, Mahroh was the Executive Director of Know Your IX, a national survivor- and youth-led organization empowering students to end gender violence and a junior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Her research addresses the ways militarization, racism, and sexual violence impact communities of color transnationally.

Mahroh is currently at Harvard Law School, organizing against state and gender-based violence.

Read more about Mahroh

Join the Conversation