Cooley + Coalition Secure Strengthened Protections for Children in Immigration Custody
San Diego – March 21, 2022 – Cooley, alongside the National Center for Youth Law, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, and the UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic, achieved a landmark ruling in which a federal judge held that unaccompanied children in federal immigration custody are entitled to greater constitutional protections than they are currently afforded when they are detained in restrictive placements or denied release to family members. Lawyers Summer Wynn, Michael McMahon, Alix Mayhugh and Jamie Robertson led the Cooley effort.
The order arises out of class-action suit Lucas R. v. Azar, which alleges that the US Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) employs policies that violate the constitutional rights of the children in its custody. Citing the harm that detention causes children, the judge ordered ORR to set and abide by clear standards when determining whether to “step up” (i.e., transfer) a child to restrictive, jail-like facilities, and ordered that it make other reforms aimed at providing children and their families appropriate avenues for due process, access to legal representation and the ability to appeal ORR’s decisions to refuse to release children to their families.
“The order will provide critical due process protections for children who often arrive in the United States alone and afraid and then have to endure lengthy detentions although they have a family member able to care for them,” said Wynn. “Cooley is deeply committed to advancing immigrant rights and is proud of this hard-fought victory, which comes after years of litigation.”
Cooley championed the effort in particular to challenge ORR’s family reunification efforts. The order extends the right to appeal the denial of a sponsorship application beyond just parents of a child in custody to their siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and other immediate relatives. The court ordered the government to ensure written notice to certain denied sponsors to inform them of their right to appeal and be represented by counsel. The court also ordered the government to require broader access to counsel for detained children, including notice to counsel of placement in restrictive facilities, access to counsel to appeal “step-up” decisions and sponsor denials, and access to class members’ case files upon request.
About Cooley LLP
Cooley partners with local and national legal services organizations to represent hundreds of pro bono clients annually. Through its pro bono work, Cooley empowers individuals to seek justice and opportunity and provides nonprofit organizations the tools they need to effect change and support underserved communities.
Cooley has 1,500 lawyers across 17 offices in the United States, Asia and Europe.
This content is provided for general informational purposes only, and your access or use of the content does not create an attorney-client relationship between you or your organization and Cooley LLP, Cooley (UK) LLP, or any other affiliated practice or entity (collectively referred to as “Cooley”). By accessing this content, you agree that the information provided does not constitute legal or other professional advice. This content is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction and you should not act or refrain from acting based on this content. This content may be changed without notice. It is not guaranteed to be complete, correct or up to date, and it may not reflect the most current legal developments. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Do not send any confidential information to Cooley, as we do not have any duty to keep any information you provide to us confidential. This content may be considered Attorney Advertising and is subject to our legal notices.