The National Immigrant Justice Center, an immigrant advocacy group, filed a lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement claiming ICE illegally detained teenagers who live in government shelters till the age of 17.
As soon as they turn 18, they are transferred to ICE detention centers. This transfer is allegedly not lawful.
“Teens who flee alone to seek safety in the United States need our protection and support, which should not suddenly disappear on their 18th birthdays,” NIJC litigation attorney Kate Melloy Goettel said.
According to the lawsuit, filed in the District Court for D.C., NIJC argued that, as per the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2013, when unaccompanied immigrant children are taken in custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement turn 18, ICE is required to place the immigrant in the “least restrictive setting available” and “provide them with meaningful alternatives to detention” after taking into account the immigrant’s well-being and flight risk.
According to NIJC, this may include placing the immigrants with sponsors or supervised homes.
“Congress extended some protections afforded to unaccompanied immigrant children beyond when they turned 18. Imprisoning young men and women makes them vulnerable to abuse, and risks traumatizing those who already have fled persecution or survived perilous journeys,” said Melloy Goettel.
The NIJC further claimed that ICE has “routinely and systemically failed to comply with the law” and the federal government has failed to ensure ICE complies with the law.
It is pertinent to note that these immigrants are sent to detention centers for their illegal status after they turn 18 and before reaching that age they are in government shelters. This raises a pertinent question of how these teenagers could ever be a threat to national security.
Thumbnail/Banner Image: Reuters, Lucy Nicholson