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Federal Judge Blocks Federal Government’s Policy of Detaining Asylum Seeking Families

February 23, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC, February 23, 2015 - A federal judge in the District of Columbia issued a preliminary injunction to halt the Obama administration's policy of detaining Central American mothers and children seeking asylum in the United States as a means of deterring others from coming to America.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg of the District of Columbia on February 20 stems from a class action lawsuit filed by Covington & Burling and the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project on behalf of mothers and children who had fled extreme violence, death threats, rape and persecution in Central America and sought refuge in the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security recently adopted a policy of detaining these mothers and children as part of an "aggressive deterrence strategy” to stop other migrants from seeking refuge in the United States.

Judge Boasberg rejected the administration’s argument that detention of asylum-seeking women and children was necessary to prevent a mass influx of migrants that would threaten national security. The “incantation of the magic word 'national security' without further substantiation is simply not enough to justify significant deprivations of liberty," he wrote in a 40-page opinion.

The Covington team includes Dennis Auerbach, David Zionts, Philip Levitz and Sonia Lahr-Pastor. The plaintiffs are also represented by the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the ACLU of Texas, and the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law at Austin.

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