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Judge rules migrant women, children released from U.S. custody

By Doug G. Ware
Judge rules migrant women, children released from U.S. custody
Mexican nationals walk along the U.S. border near Laredo, Texas, Thursday, July 23, 2015. A federal judge in California ruled on Friday that the White House's policy of detaining women and children at facilities in Texas violates a 1997 accord that guarantees the mothers and their children safe, sanitary and humane conditions. Photo: Aaron M. Sprecher/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, July 26 (UPI) -- A federal judge in California has ruled that the Obama administration is in serious violation of a near 20-year-old court agreement by detaining women and children who cross over illegally from Mexico.

Judge Dolly M. Gee of Federal District Court for the Central District of California ruled Friday regarding a court challenge to the Department of Homeland Security's detentions of women and children at facilities in Texas. The plaintiffs said two facilities there violated a 1997 accord, in that they do not meet the minimum legal requirements to house children there and process them in a timely manner, the New York Times reported.

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Both facilities were opened last summer by administration officials to house detainees captured illegally crossing over into the United States from Mexico.

Judge Gee also ruled that children held temporarily at border patrol stations were held in "deplorable" conditions and the facilities failed to provide a "safe and sanitary" conditions for the women and their young. Thus, Gee ordered that the women and children currently being held in violation of the 1997 agreement be released from custody as soon as possible.

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The judge's ruling is a major blow to a push by the Obama administration and Homeland Security to stem the flow of immigrants crossing into the United States from Central America and Mexico -- particularly mothers and children.

Officials cited an influx of immigrants crossing into Texas last summer as the reason DHS built the facilities.

In issuing her decision, Judge Gee rejected the White House's arguments for detaining the migrants and accused the administration of ignoring the clear legal requirements of the 1997 settlement.

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The 18-year-old accord -- which guarantees safe, sanitary and humane conditions for detainees -- was reached more than a decade after a lawsuit was first brought in 1985. In February, plaintiff Jenny Flores and other class members filed a motion to enforce the agreement.

The Department of Homeland Security responded by attempting to amend the settlement, but Judge Gee's decision Friday sided with the plaintiffs.

"ICE's blanket 'no-release' policy ... cannot be reconciled with the agreement's grant to class members," the court wrote in the decision.

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"In light of all the evidence, the Court agrees with plaintiffs' interpretation [of the Agreement]," the judgment continues. "Therefore, the Court finds the defendants' blanket 'no-release' policy with respect to minors accompanied by their mothers is a material breach of the Agreement."

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"We are disappointed with the court's decision and are reviewing it in consultation with the Department of Justice," DHS spokeswoman Marsha Catron said in the New York Times report. She also said DHS would respond to a judicial order to submit a plan for carrying out the ruling by Aug. 3.

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