Side Note

ICE is detaining teenagers when they turn 18

As we’ve previously reported, immigrant detention centers have a track record of being physically and psychologically unsafe for detainees. This week, a lawsuit filed by the National Immigrant Justice Center says Immigration and Customs Enforcement is illegally detaining immigrant teenagers as soon as they turn 18.

The class-action suit names two teenagers, Wilmer Garcia Ramirez, 19, and Sulma Hernandez Alfaro, 18, who migrated to the U.S. when they were minors. According to the suit, both teenagers were eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, a form of relief for immigrant minors escaping difficult circumstances. Their cases were handled by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which was required to place them either with a sponsor or in a shelter or group home instead of in a detention center.

But on their respective 18th birthdays, Garcia Ramirez and Hernandez were arrested and transferred to an adult detention facility, even though both had a sponsor who was willing to shelter them. The suit claims that ICE violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, an Obama-era stipulation requiring unaccompanied migrant teenagers — including those who turn 18 after arriving in the U.S. — to be “promptly placed in the least restrictive setting that is in their best interest.”

In related news, the New Yorker reported Thursday that another lawsuit, filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union, is accusing the Department of Homeland Security of using ORR as a form of de facto detention for undocumented teenagers.

Read the full complaint against ICE here.