Immigration Law Clinic Wins Key Protections for Detained Migrant Children

People sitting at the Ursula detention center in McAllen, Texas.
The Ursula detention center in McAllen, Texas.

The UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic attained a crucial victory Aug. 30 when U.S. District Court for the Central District of California Judge Dolly Gee ordered the federal government to provide more robust procedural protections for detained migrant children.

Gee’s preliminary injunction in Lucas R. v. Azar ensures that minors held in Office of Refugee Resettlement custody can appeal the denial of their safe and timely release to family members in the United States. They also can appeal ORR’s decision to place them in restrictive and locked facilities such as juvenile detention centers, residential treatment programs and “medium secure” facilities.

The plaintiffs are represented by the Immigration Law Clinic, Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, National Center for Youth Law, and Cooley LLP. The injunction follows a legal fight that began in June 2018.

“The protections provided in the preliminary injunction are long overdue,” Professor and Immigration Law Clinic Co-director Holly Cooper said. Cooper noted that clinic students, who provide legal assistance under the supervision of attorneys, were crucial to the win.

 “Many of our students worked on this case and flew all over the United States visiting detained children, taking depositions and really making extraordinary efforts to get this victory,” Cooper said.

Professor Ashutosh Bhagwat provided vital assistance in “being available to lend his expertise on all of our administrative law questions,” Cooper said.

Cooper also credited Together Rising, a nonprofit founded by author Glennon Doyle, for its part in the win. In 2019, Together Rising gave $900,000 it generated through a highly successful crowdfunding campaign to the clinic, providing funding for two staff attorneys for three years. The gift followed a national controversy over reports of inhumane conditions at facilities where migrant children are detained.  

Doyle will appear on stage Oct. 16 at UC Davis’ Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. The “Conversation with Glennon Doyle” event is part of the Wisdom of Women series presented by Women & Philanthropy at UC Davis. The conversation is part of a symposium with panelists including the Chief Justice of California, Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye '84.

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