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Immigration Law

Immigrant Family Separation in Northwest Juvenile Jails

University of Washington Center for Human Rights, Apr. 22, 2020

"On April 22, 2020, three youth currently incarcerated at Cowlitz County Youth Services Center were included in a federal lawsuit seeking the release of migrant children held in US government custody in congregate settings, due to concerns for their safety in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to review a brief submitted in federal district court by the attorneys appointed to defend the interests of detained minors under the Flores Agreement.

In the Pacific Northwest, two county-run juvenile jails have been reaping revenue from the Trump administration’s family separation practices for years, while mounting an unusual effort to conceal these practices from the public. The Cowlitz County Youth Services Center in Longview, Washington, and the juvenile Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility (NORCOR), in The Dalles, Oregon, are two of only three facilities in the nation where immigrant children who are taken from their families by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are detained, without access to due process or the protections mandated for migrant youth under the 1997 Flores Agreement. In many ways, the secrecy surrounding these facilities has allowed them to hold children indefinitely in administrative detention far from their communities—and to plump county coffers with the proceeds from family separation and child detention practices that physicians and human rights experts consider torture.

This report, a joint publication of the University of Washington Center for Human Rights (UWCHR) and the Transformative Immigration Law course at Lewis and Clark Law School taught by Professor Juliet Stumpf, shares the results of our ongoing research on the detention of noncitizen children in these jails. Much remains unknown about these facilities, and one of this report’s authors is currently being sued in federal court for merely inquiring about them. Our research suggests, however, that in facilitating family separation and the indefinite detention of children without access to due process protections these facilities and ICE violate international human rights standards, the U.S. Constitution, and Washington and Oregon state law."