U.S. immigration authorities said in a court filing late Friday that one of the main reasons detained migrant children were not released this week as part of an order by a federal judge is because their parents did not agree to be separated from them.
In the filing, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement listed several reasons why the agency denied parole to virtually all of the 185 minors in its custody this week. One of them was labeled in spreadsheets as “Parent Does Not Wish to Separate.”
Friday’s court filing indicates that migrant parents were recently asked, among other questions, whether they wished to be separated from their children, so the minors could be released to relatives or other sponsors.
On Thursday, groups that provide legal services at the three family detention centers ICE oversees in Texas and Pennsylvania said their clients were asked, without their attorneys’ knowledge, to choose between staying in detention indefinitely or allowing their children to be released to sponsors — without them.
The advocates accused ICE of presenting parents with this “binary choice,” a policy which could lead to family separation and that the administration has reportedly considered in the past to deter families from crossing the border. Prior to Friday’s court filings, an ICE spokesperson said the agency had “not implemented what has been referred to as ‘binary choice’ at this time,” and was instead “exploring all options” in response to federal litigation.
In one of the court filings Friday, a top ICE official said officers at the three family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania conducted “parole determinations” for all the children in its custody in response to an order late last month by the federal judge overseeing litigation related to the Flores Settlement Agreement, which governs the care of migrant minors in U.S. custody.
On April 24, Judge Dolly Gee of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles found that the government was violating that agreement and ordered it to “make every effort to promptly and safely” release the children in its custody who have suitable sponsors, don’t pose a danger to themselves or others and are not flight risks.