June 19, 2015
As McClatchy reported, the Petitioner—whose name has been removed to protect her identity—was the victim of domestic violence in Guatemala, and is seeking asylum in the United States. When she arrived in the United States, she and her daughter were detained and placed in the Berks County Residential Center where they remained until June 19, 2015, when they were abruptly removed and put on a plane back to Guatemala. Petitioner was in the process of applying for a stay of removal while she appealed a denial of her asylum application.
On June 19, 2015, Judge Theodore McKee ordered the government to “intercept Petitioners when they land tonight in Guatemala City and to return Petitioners to the United States immediately,” noting that the “Court would have granted Petitioners a stay of removal, but was informed that Petitioners were removed earlier today.” Judge McKee goes on to say that “upon their return, Petitioners are granted a stay of removal pending disposition of their petition for review.”
This order came about because Petitioner had requested a stay of removal, and, in arguing against the request, on June 9, 2015, the U.S. attorney’s office announced that immigration officials had no plans to remove Petitioner. Despite this, on June 19, 2015, Petitioner and her daughter were removed to Guatemala.
The Petitioner in this case is among the many individuals who have been subject to family detention policies. DHS has relied primarily on 8 U.S.C. § 1226, 8 C.F.R. § 235.3, and 8 C.F.R. § 236.3 as the legal basis for family detention. More recently however, courts have called into question the legality of such practices, particularly with respect to the mass detention of families fleeing violence in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. See R.I.L.-R v. Johnson, 2015 WL 737117 (D.D.C. 2015) (granting a primary injunction to petitioners until a final decision on the merit of family detention is reached).
These policies allow the government to detain families without releasing them on bond. Over the last year, criticism of family detention policies has grown, and opponents argue that they inhibit access to fair hearings, are detrimental to physical and mental health, especially for those seeking asylum and for children, and are unnecessary to ensure noncitizens appear at their hearings.
On June 15, 2015, ninety-seven nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) signed a letter to President Obama urging him to end the practice of family detention because of the psychological trauma it imposes on already traumatized individuals. This prompted a response from Secretary Jeh Johnson on June 24, 2015, outlining changes DHS will make to the family detention policies to avoid long-term detention of families.