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Texas Blocked From Giving Childcare License to South Texas Immigration Lockup

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A judge in Austin ruled today that Texas officials cannot lower their standards for childcare facilities in order to license a privately owned and operated immigrant family lockup in the South Texas town of Dilley, according to the San Antonio Current.

250th District Judge Karin Crump decided to block the state licensing of the South Texas Family Residential Center in court today. The Obama administration has used the facility, more commonly known as the Dilley family detention camp, since 2014 to detain women and children who are in the U.S. seeking asylum. Crump focused on special exemptions that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services made for immigrant detention centers.

Immigrant rights advocates and others have said that the exemptions allow family detention centers to bypass many rules that exist for children's safety, including one which states that children are not to be housed with unrelated adults.

According to the Texas Tribune, Crump said "The exceptions allow and have allowed for situations for children that are dangerous. And this temporary injunction addresses those concerns."

This ruling comes at an interesting time for the Obama administration’s family detention policy. Obama’s administration is currently appealing a ruling by a federal judge in California ordering the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to reform how it detains immigrant children. As previously reported, federal district Judge Dolly M. Gee ruled that current family detention policy was in violation of an 18-year-old settlement and that children could not be housed in unlicensed, prison-like facilities.

As for the family detention camp in Dilley, Denise Gilman, the director of the University of Texas' immigration law clinic, said that even if licensed, Dilley and a similar facility in Karnes County would not comply with Judge Gee’s ruling, which states that children must be housed in non-secure (not prison-like) facilities. "These are still detention centers, no matter how you look at them," she says.

The case will proceed to a full trial in September.

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