CGRS Responds to Supreme Court Decision Denying Constitutional Rights of Detained Refugee Families

Thursday, April 20, 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) decries the decision of the Supreme Court to deny 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.

“This surprising decision has left asylum-seeking families vulnerable to deportation to their countries-of-origin, from which they fled to seek protection in the United States,” said CGRS Staff Attorney Robyn Barnard who has documented conditions at the Berks facility. “It is very disappointing that the Supreme Court did not take the opportunity to correct the flawed Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision and to address the serious defects in the expedited removal system that have failed these families and other asylum seekers.”

The majority of the families detained at Berks family detention center have been subject to prolonged detention, with many of the families involved in the Castro case, including young children, in immigration detention for over one year. ACLU-PA is counsel for the asylum seeking families and CGRS participated as amicus (friend of the court) in the Third Circuit case and in support of the families’ petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court.

On Wednesday, local pro bono counsel for the families, Cambria and Kline PC and Carol Anne Donohoe, were successful in obtaining a temporary restraining order (TRO) in the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania which prevents the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from deporting four of the families or transferring them outside of Pennsylvania. The TRO was granted on the basis that these families have approved Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and pending green card applications with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

This move by the Eastern District Court further amplifies the failing of the Supreme Court to address the issues at play in Castro, particularly considering lives of women and children are at stake if returned to their home countries where they reasonably fear persecution.

CGRS calls on DHS Secretary Kelly to release the families detained at the Berks family detention center and to allow them the opportunity to seek asylum before an immigration judge while living in the community.