National Center for Youth Law (2021)

In a landmark ruling in the Lucas R. lawsuit in March 2022, a federal judge held that unaccompanied children in federal immigration custody are entitled to greater constitutional protections than they are currently afforded.  

Among other things, the order: 

1. Requires the government to employ a clear and convincing evidentiary standard in deciding when a minor should be stepped up to a more restrictive placement and gives minors the opportunity to immediately appeal their placement in a restrictive setting, with the assistance of counsel.

2. Extends the right to appeal the denial of a sponsorship application beyond just parents of a child in custody to their siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Moreover, the Court required the government to ensure written notice to denied sponsors to inform them of their right to appeal and be represented by counsel.

3. Requires 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.

The Court’s holding applied to three of the five claims in the Lucas R. lawsuit. Over the coming months NCYL will continue negotiating with the administration in an effort to come to agreement on the remaining two claims regarding (1) children who are administered psychotropic medications and (2) children with disabilities. If we are unable to reach agreement on these two additional claims, a trial will take place in November 2022.

Click here to see the original grant, including the six-month and year-end reports.