CGRS Responds to Congressional Members Calling for Halt to Deportations of Women and Children

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Women and Children Detained at the Berks Family Detention Center
Face Deportation to Countries Where Their Lives Are At Risk

The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) applauds a bicameral letter sent yesterday by 9 U.S. Senators and 13 members of the House of Representatives, led by Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, calling for Secretary Kelly of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to release the mothers and children currently subject to prolonged detention at the Berks County family detention center.

On April 17th, the Supreme Court denied certiorari in the case of Castro v. the Department of Homeland Security. In doing so, the Court upheld a problematic Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision, which denied the constitutional right to of mothers and children detained at the Berks County family detention center to challenge their fast-track deportation through habeas. CGRS condemned that decision and supports the message sent by these members of congress for the United States to uphold our values of humanitarian protection and justice.

The letter spearheaded by Senator Casey, among 19 other members of congress, focuses primarily on four families with children who have approved Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) and pending green card applications based on that status. In granting SIJS protection, the Department of Homeland Security has recognized that return to their home country would not be in the children’s best interests. These families are plaintiffs in a local case in which the government has been at least temporarily restrained from deporting or transferring the families due to their pending applications for relief. DHS has refused to release these families up until this point despite the children having pending green card applications. One of the children has spent half of his life in U.S. immigration detention.

The group of congressional members wrote, “[w]ith more pressing issues facing ICE and the need to spend our limited federal resources wisely, there are more cost effective and humane approaches to this situation than family detention.”

CGRS calls on DHS Secretary Kelly to heed Congress’ call to release the families detained at the Berks family detention center and to allow them the opportunity to seek asylum and other immigration relief they may qualify for before an immigration judge while living in the community.