LA court docket submitting seeks to bolster protections for youngsters in immigration custody – Every day Information
LOS ANGELES – The federal government continues to hold migrant children indefinitely in makeshift facilities that are unsafe, unsanitary, and detrimental to the children’s physical and mental well-being for a Los Angeles judge to enforce legal safeguards.
The motion for enforcement filed in Los Angeles Federal Court calls on the court to enforce the groundbreaking 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement, which set basic standards for the care of immigrant children.
The sleeping area in Exhibition Hall B of the Long Beach Convention Center, where migrant children found without parents at the border were temporarily housed. Long Beach officials and the U.S. HHS conducted a tour of the Long Beach facility on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The center was closed last month. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram / SCNG)
The file contains first-hand reports from dozens of children living in what are known as government emergency rooms, as well as testimony from legal services providers, federal whistleblowers, and child mental health experts describing obnoxious and unacceptable conditions and treatments.
The U.S. Department of Health began opening EIS facilities in March 2021 and once operated 14 of them, four of which were still operational.
An emergency shelter at the Long Beach Convention Center was closed last month and another HHS shelter for migrant children is still operating at the Fairplex in Pomona.
The sites were reportedly intended as a stopgap measure in response to a lack of space in licensed facilities. As of July 21, at least 717 of the more than 4,500 children detained in EIS facilities had been there for more than 20 days, including 63 who had been detained for more than 40 days, according to immigrant rights groups.
There was no immediate response to a request for comment message from HHS that was sent after normal business hours.
A trial on the matter is scheduled for September 10 in Los Angeles.
The NCYL interviewed more than 180 children detained in EIS facilities in the past five months. Many of the children in two of the remaining EIS facilities report that they or their peers have been denied access to education, recreation, adequate food and health care, among other things.
Often the sites are hardly or not at all supervised by trained staff – many workers only speak English and cannot speak to the children in their care – and some children languish unnecessarily for weeks or months with little communication with their families or clerks, the group claims .
“For months, the kids we met at the EISs have been telling horror stories after another,” said Leecia Welch, NCYL’s senior director of Child Welch and Legal Advocacy.
“Children have described that they spend the majority of the day with hundreds of other children in massive tents on or around their beds, suffer from escalating anxiety attacks under the stress of the harsh EIS environment, go for weeks without clean clothes or underwear and months without being outside walk in the fresh air. While some of the insecure EIS facilities have been closed, mega-tents and miners’ camps like Fort Bliss and Pecos remain in sight. “
In statements submitted to the court, children, some with special needs, also state that they will be held for longer stays of sometimes 60 days or more. This happens even with children whose family members are ready to take them in and despite government recognition that EIS facilities are not intended for long-term care. This is particularly worrying as the government reports that there are over a thousand places available in licensed care facilities that could meet the needs of the children currently being harmed in EIS facilities.