Civil Rights Commission Asks Obama to Release Illegal Alien Families ‘Right Away’

Penny Starr | September 17, 2015 | 10:02pm EDT
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Martin Castro, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, spoke at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 17, 2015. ( Starr)

( – The head of the United States Commission on Civil Rights’ announced on Thursday that it has issued a report on federal detention centers used to house illegal aliens that recommends to Congress and the president that they should abide by a federal judge’s order to release women and children who are in the country illegally “right away.”


“Our concern is that Judge Gee’s order be enforced, and that is why we sent the letter to the president last night asking him to direct Homeland Security to not object to that order and begin to release these families right away,” Martin Castro, chairman of the commission and a Democrat, said at a press conference at the National Press Club.


The letter states, in part, “the health, safety and welfare of immigrant children and their parents depend on the United States complying with the Flores Settlement Agreement.”

As reported in July, in the ruling in the Jenny L. Flores v. Jeh Johnson case, Judge Dolly M. Gee of the Federal District Court in California chastised the Obama administration for not having proper protocol in place for housing the roughly 1,700 women and children in ICE custody in two Texas detention centers, according to DHS, which provided the number to


In her decision, Gee said the Obama administration “shall make and record prompt and continuous efforts toward family reunification and the release of the minor.”


A majority of the commissioners – two Democrats and an Independent appointed by President Barack Obama and two Democrats appointed by Congress – approved the report for release, and one - an Independent appointed by Obama - recused herself.


However, the two other commissioners on the panel  -- a Republican and an Independent both appointed by Congress - dissented.


“Long before any evidence was gathered, the chairman’s proposal to undertake this study had already concluded that ‘egregious human rights and constitutional violations continue to occur in detention facilities,’” Commissioner Gail Heriot, an Independent, said in a lengthy dissenting statement. “The Commission thus went into this project intent on uncovering a scandal.


“Instead of conducting an actual investigation, it structured its initial fact-finding simply to amplify stale rumor and innuendo,” Heriot said. “No effort was undertaken to establish whether the allegations – all of which were already public – were fact or fancy.”


Heriot said that one woman she spoke with at onsite visits to a family detention center in Texas did complain about how she had been treated by the Border Patrol when she was taken into custody but said that “she appreciated the Zumba fitness classes and other adult education classes” offered at the detention center.


Commissioner Peter Kirsanow, a Republican, said in his dissenting statement that the 2015 annually mandated enforcement report to Congress and the president “is merely a vehicle for the Commission to express its view on immigration policy, which differs sharply from that of the majority of the public, many of the states and many members of the legislative branch.”


Noting that the majority of people who are now in the federal detention centers for violating immigration law come from Latin America and therefore are Latinos, Kirsanow said that does not translate into discrimination or a violation of civil rights.


“Just because people of a particular ethnic group or national origin are more likely than others to break a particular law does not mean there is a civil rights component,” Kirsanow said. “Would the commission claim that it has jurisdiction to examine the treatment of people convicted of insider trading if those people are disproportionately white? Such a suggestion is ludicrous.”


At the press conference, Castro said the report was undertaken to “comprehensively examine the U.S. government’s compliance with federal immigration laws and detention policies and also to detail evidence regarding possible infringement upon the constitutional rights that are afforded to detained immigrants.”


Castro also said the White House had not yet responded to the report.


On the commission website it states: “The Civil Rights Act of 1957 created the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Established as an independent, bipartisan, fact-finding federal agency, our mission is to inform the development of national civil rights policy and enhance enforcement of federal civil rights laws.


“We pursue this mission by studying alleged deprivations of voting rights and alleged discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin, or in the administration of justice. We play a vital role in advancing civil rights through objective and comprehensive investigation, research, and analysis on issues of fundamental concern to the federal government and the public.”


On the Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement website, some of the benefits given to “Unaccompanied Refugee Minors” is detailed:


  • Indirect financial support for housing, food, clothing, medical care and other necessities

  • Intensive case management by social workers

  • Independent living skills training

  • Educational supports including educational training vouchers (ETVs)

  • English language training

  • Career/college counseling and training

  • Mental health services

  • Assistance adjusting immigration status

  • Cultural activities

  • Recreational opportunities

  • Support for social integration

  • Cultural and religious preservation
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