Immigration Law

Judge blasts DHS for reuniting smuggled children with parents living in U.S. illegally

A federal judge in Brownsville, Texas, has rebuked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for its handling of children caught being smuggled into the country, saying in a written order that by reuniting them with parents already here illegally the agency aids in “completing the mission of criminal conspiracy,” the Associated Press reports.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen’s criticism of the agency came in the case of a human trafficker he had just sentenced. The 10-page order (PDF), which is not policy, details the judge’s frustration with DHS policy in such matters.  He waited until he sentenced the human trafficker before issuing the blistering criticism of immigration enforcement policy, in this case taking a 10-year-old child from Brownsville to be with her mother in Virginia.

The AP notes that Judge Hanen, who points out in his order that he has had four similar cases over a four-week period, has not been outspoken on immigration issues.

The judge’s order goes into detail explaining his belief that a 1997 case on which the DHS relies, Flores v. Reno, is no longer in effect and does not prevent DHS from arresting the parent, or initiating deportation proceedings, and bringing them to the child’s location. Hanen suggests charging the parent with two crimes: living here illegally, and conspiring to smuggle the child into the country.

According to the AP, the smuggled children still face deportation; the goal of reuniting them with family members is to remove them from crowded, government-funded detention centers while the deportation hearings proceed.

The DHS’s policy was commended by Wendy Young, president of Kids in Need of Defense, a pro bono organization which arranges legal representation for unaccompanied children in immigration proceedings. “What are the alternatives, locking kids into facilities for months and months?”

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