National Immigrant Justice Center v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security

January 30, 2012

NIJC filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to obtain information clarifying the circumstances of thousands of immigrant children who may have been unlawfully detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Data released to NIJC under the Freedom of Information Act in 2011 suggest that ICE may have unlawfully detained more than 2,000 immigrant children for periods of up to 450 days between 2008 and 2010. The agency has refused to provide specific details regarding the age, circumstances, and conditions of the detained children.  

When ICE encounters unaccompanied immigrant children in the United States, the law requires that the agency transfer them to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which operates facilities across the country designed especially to care for children. The facilities usually offer legal orientation programs, and whenever possible, ORR reunites children with family members or guardians.

According to the limited government data provided to date, unaccompanied children were held in isolated county jails throughout the country that contract with ICE to hold adult detainees. Many of the jails were hundreds of miles from cities with legal aid and other services.

NIJC is represented by attorneys José J. Behar and Mary M. Rowland of Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd.

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