Mixed 4th Circuit Decision on ICE Transfers
4th Circuit decision on ICE transfers upholds court oversight but fails families
Falls Church, Va., April 16, 2019 — Today the 4th Circuit issued a decision in Reyna v. Hott, a case challenging ICE’s practice of transferring detained parents across the country and far away from their children and families. In an important win for immigration advocates, the Court unequivocally held that it had the power to hear cases challenging the way ICE transfers detainees to different detention centers. This important holding will allow advocates to continue to challenge unlawful and harmful ICE practices.
However, the Court affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of the case, failing to recognize a right to family unity for detained immigrants and their U.S. citizen children. In Virginia, the majority of immigrants that are detained by ICE have been living in the United States and many have families and US Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident children who also live in Virginia. Nonetheless, ICE transfers these detained parents across the country with no consideration of the needs of their children to visit their parents, or their own rights as parents to provide care and nurture to their children through in-person visits during the traumatic period of detention.
“While we are happy the court recognized its power to hold the government accountable for its arbitrary and punitive transfer practices, we are disappointed that the 4th circuit failed to recognize the importance of family unity in the context of detainee transfers. The parent-child relationship is not an on-off switch, and being able to visit their parents in person while their parents are detained is important to mitigate the harm done by the fact of detention,” says Becky Wolozin, attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center. “Instead, the 4th Circuit declined to provide relief for parents detained at great distances from their children, making in person visitation impossible causing exponential harm to the child and to the parent-child relationship.”
Reyna v. Hott was a lawsuit attempting to require ICE to consider the interests of the parent and the child in providing care and nurture through in-person visits before transferring parents far away from their families. The claim was based on a violation of due process because the government is unlawfully infringing on the liberty interest in family unity (held by both the parent and the child in the 4th circuit). The Plaintiffs contended that ICE was infringing on this interest because they did not provide notice or an opportunity for the parent or child to be heard regarding the harm that transfer of the parent would cause the child or the parent-child relationship.
The district court granted the government’s motion to dismiss because the judge found that the harm was done by the fact of detention, and that there was no further harm done by transferring parents great distances from where there children live, thereby essentially preventing visitation between parents and children.
Legal Aid Justice Center brought the case with the support of CapitalOne pro bono counsel.
About the Legal Aid Justice Center
The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty. LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, civil rights, immigration, healthcare, workers’ rights, and consumer finance. LAJC’s primary service areas are Charlottesville, Northern Virginia, Richmond and Petersburg, but the effects of their work are felt statewide. www.justice4all.org
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