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Immigration Reform News: 178 House Democrats Urge Homeland Security to End Immigrant Detention

First Posted: Aug 03, 2015 05:07 PM EDT
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House Democrats have increased their call for U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to end family detention after a federal court ruled against the policy.

Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois and Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard and Zoe Lofgren of California were among 136 House Democrats who originally wrote to Johnson to close the immigrant detention centers in late May. Last month, U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee ruled against the detainment of immigrant women and children, citing it violated an existing federal provision. Gee gave the DHS a deadline of Aug. 3 to explain to her why her next ruling -- to potentially release the immigrants -- should not occur.

Following Gee's ruling, 177 House Democrats and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, reiterated the immigrant detention centers' closure.

"I am pleased that so many of my House colleagues including our top leaders are united in telling the President and Secretary of Homeland Security that putting moms and kids in detention just does not comport with our values as a Americans," said Gutierrez in a statement. "We have been making progress towards ending family detention all year, but the court ruling and the unity of Democrats on this matter make it clear that family detention is almost over. And good riddance."

The letter, addressed to Johnson, mentioned Gee's decision and how the DHS violated the 20-year-old Flores settlement agreement.

"It is long past time to end family detention. In light of this recent federal court ruling, we urge you take all necessary and appropriate steps to bring the Department [of Homeland Security's] practice in line with the settlement agreement and court ruling," read the letter.

"Last week's court ruling reaffirmed what many of my colleagues and I already recognize: that detaining children in prison-like facilities simply because of the immigration status of their parents is wrong and runs counter to our nation's highest values," said House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. "The individuals being detained with their children in these centers are seeking asylum, and they ought to be treated with compassion."

Hoyer, Gutierrez, Lofgren and Roybal-Allard were among eight House Democrats who visited detention centers in Texas in June. Gutierrez, who referred to the detention centers as "prison camps," said the trip was "heartbreaking and very, very painful." He added that the immigrants are not in the prison camps because they've done anything wrong and most of them have spent nearly a year detained despite already meeting an immigration court judge.

The letter was also written in Spanish.

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