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WRC Calls for Robust Court Oversight of ICE Treatment of Unaccompanied Children Detained on 18th Birthdays

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the District of Columbia federal district court will hold a hearing in Garcia Ramirez et al. v. ICE, where the judge recently found that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) routinely violates the law by transferring unaccompanied children to ICE detention when they turn 18 without considering less restrictive alternatives. Today’s hearing will consider what court-ordered actions are necessary to ensure that ICE complies with the law and gives serious and individualized consideration of alternatives to detention in every youth’s case, including family or friends, community sponsors, group homes, shelters, or other options.

In anticipation of today’s hearing, Michelle Brané, senior director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), issued the following statement:

“The Women’s Refugee Commission strongly supports the request of the plaintiffs, led by the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) and Kirkland & Ellis LLP, for a court-ordered monitor to guarantee government compliance. As WRC has found repeatedly, independent oversight is indispensable in the face of ICE’s systematic and ongoing failures to comply with the law and safeguard the health and safety of those it detains.

“The district court’s recent decision finding that ICE routinely violates the law represents a critical first step to realizing the promise of this critical statutory protection in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) recognizing the ongoing vulnerability of youth to the harms of detention.

“Unfortunately, experience has shown that a court decision telling ICE it has violated the law is not enough to ensure the agency’s future compliance. A court-ordered monitor provides a critical and necessary accountability mechanism to make sure that ICE ceases its widespread practice of shackling children on their 18th birthdays and hauling them off to detention. Detaining children just because they turn 18 is not only harmful and wasteful, but also willfully ignores the reality that children do not magically turn into adults on their 18th birthdays.”