On September 30, 2015, Grassroots Leadership (an Austin-based nonprofit that opposes private prison companies), two detainee mothers, and a licensed childcare service provider filed this suit in state court, in the 353rd Judicial District Court of Travis County, to prevent the state of Texas from licensing two family immigration detention centers, in which U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was detaining mothers and their children.
The case's background is that in 1997, a settlement was reached in a federal civil rights suit, Flores v. Reno
, 84-cv-04544 (C.D. Cal) (IM-CA-0002
in this clearinghouse), which provided that the detained minors detained by the U.S. as their immigration cases proceeded could only be housed in non-secure and licensed settings. In July and August 2015, District Judge Dolly Gee agreed with the Flores
plaintiffs that the settlement applied to minors who were apprehended along with their parents, as well as to unaccompanied minors. Accordingly, Judge Gee held, the settlement barred long-term family detention in detention centers not licensed for children's occupancy by the state in which they were located. There were two such family detention centers in Texas, in Dilley and Karnes.
In September 2015, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services ("DFPS"), adopted an emergency regulation, which it claimed was authorized by Texas statute (Tit. 40, Pt. 19, Ch. 748, Subch. A, R. 748.7). This regulation allowed the state to issue childcare licenses to the detention centers. The plaintiffs in this case went to state court, claiming that DFPS lacked statutory authority to license the detention centers, which are run for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by for-profit prison companies Corrections Corporations of America ("CCA") and the GEO Group.
On October 22, 2016, DFPS sought to remove the case to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. It was assigned docket number 15-cv-00945 (W.D. Tex). However, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks held there was no federal jurisdiction, because action arose under state rather than federal law. The case was accordingly remanded to the Texas state court.
Back in state court, the plaintiffs argued that the regulation was procedurally improper because no emergency existed. On November 20, 2015, Texas trial court judge Karin Crump agreed, and temporarily enjoined the regulation.
DFPS then reissued the regulation using the ordinary, non-emergency procedure, opening it up for public comment. It went into effect on March 1, 2016. Three days later, DFPS licensed the smaller of the two ICE detention centers, in Karnes.
The plaintiffs in this case continued to object to the regulation, however, arguing chiefly that it was beyond DFPS's statutory authority. They sought a temporary restraining order against licensure of the second, larger, Dilley detention center. On May 4, 2016, Judge Crump granted the requested temporary restraining order In the order, the court declared that the plaintiffs had shown "a probable right to a declaratory judgment" that the regulation impermissibly exceeded the agency's statutory authority and held that the temporary restraining order was necessary to preserve the status quo while litigation proceeded, to avoid irreparable harm to the plaintiffs.
Hearing was set for May 13, 2016; after hearing evidence, Judge Crump extended the temporary restraining order and set another hearing for June 1. At that hearing, she heard more evidence, and extended the order further. Final hearing is set for September 2016. See Austin Chronicle, Fighting Family Detention (May 27, 2016)
and this Grassroots Leadership Press Release (June 1, 2016)
The litigation is ongoing as of July 28, 2016.Soojin Cha - 08/04/2016