Ninth Circuit Rules that Children in ORR Custody Must be Provided Custody Hearings

Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in the nationwide class action case, Flores v. Sessions, that minors in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) must be afforded a hearing before an immigration judge to determine whether they may be continued in federal custody on grounds of dangerousness or flight-risk. The court of appeals affirmed an order of the United States District Court for the Central District of California holding that neither the 2002 Homeland Security Act nor the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act supersede the 1997 Flores Settlement, which provides that a “minor in deportation proceedings shall be afforded a bond redetermination hearing before an immigration judge” in all cases except where affirmatively declined.

Writing for a unanimous court, Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt held, “Not a single word in either statute indicates that Congress intended to supersede, terminate, or take away any right enjoyed by unaccompanied minors at the time of the acts’ passage… Thus, we hold that the statutes have not terminated the Flores settlement’s bond-hearing requirement for unaccompanied minors.”

The Court reasoned that without bond hearings, detained immigrant and refugee “children [would] have no meaningful forum in which to challenge [the government’s] decisions,” and would be stuck in a “bureaucratic limbo.”

CHRCL General Counsel, Carlos Holguín, who argued the cause before the Ninth Circuit on behalf of the plaintiff children, praised the court for vindicating the fundamental right of children to be heard when government seeks to incarcerate them

The Ninth Circuit’s opinion is available through this link.

Materials relating to ORR’s implementing the hearing requirement are available here.

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