US Bishops' Official Welcomes Ruling Ordering Government to Release Detained Families

“The detention of families is unnecessary, inhumane, and unworthy of our nation.”

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The July 24 ruling by Judge Dolly Gee of the Federal District Court of California ordering the Obama administration to release from detention families fleeing violence in Central America was applauded today by Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration.

The administration has pursued a detention policy for these families –young mothers with children– as a means to deter other families from migrating to the United States.

“I welcome the ruling of the court and urge the administration to comply with it expeditiously,” Bishop Elizondo said July 27. “Appealing the decision would only prolong a flawed and unjust policy of treating this vulnerable population as criminals.”

The judge ruled that the detention of families violated the Flores v. Reno settlement, which concluded that children should be released from detention, or, in some cases, held in the least restrictive settings. She concluded that, consistent with the Flores settlement, the administration should as a first priority release children with their parents, denying the option that children be released and their parents be kept detained.

In April, Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio; Bishop James Tamayo of Laredo, Texas; and Bishop Elizondo visited families at the detention center in Dilley, Texas, calling for an end to the detention of families and the use of alternative forms of detention.

“There are humane alternatives to detention which would ensure that families avail themselves of the court process but also are able to access legal and social service assistance,” Bishop Elizondo said. “I encourage the administration to make use of these programs.” 

Community-based alternatives to detention provide case management to released families, enabling them to live in the community but also comply with the legal process. Bishop Elizondo added that families should receive legal orientation presentations before they are released, so they are aware of their rights and responsibilities.

“Hopefully, the court’s decision will end the suffering and further traumatization of these families,” Bishop Elizondo concluded. “The detention of families is unnecessary, inhumane, and unworthy of our nation.”

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