Undocumented Youth Deserve Due Process

At the Board of Supervisors meeting on October 10th the Board received a presentation on the Federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Program here in Yolo County. The presentation

focused on how placement decisions are made, how they can be challenged, the due process rights of children detained, and the current lawsuit pending in federal court, Gomez v. Sessions. I think we need to hold ORR accountable to our expectations and ensure that these children are appropriately placed in our secure facility receive due process.

Based on the presentation we learned that placements through the Office of Refugee Resettlement include considerations of whether the young person requires a secure placement, if they pose a danger to themselves or others, and whether the youth have committed a criminal offense. While this determination is being made the children are held in custody in ICE facilities. Once the child is admitted into ORR’s custody, assessment takes place. Some of these assessments have not been completed prior to transfer of the child to Yolo County.

According to current ORR policy and practice, a child that has been in custody with ORR for 30 days has the opportunity/right to ask for a hearing with the ORR Director to challenge their placement. Only one child in our care has requested a hearing so far.

Detained youth now have the chance for a hearing with a neutral immigration judge, the right to cross examine witnesses, and the right to legal counsel. However, youth must find an attorney, as the Federal Government will not provide free legal counsel.

Click here to watch the board discussion.

Unfortunately, this presentation left me with more concerns and questions about the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s practices and policies. I’m concerned that ORR currently can change their practices and policies without having to inform us. I’m also worried that ORR policies aren’t being followed on a continual basis and that, because of this, it is possible that children may be held in custody without substantive evidence.

It’s time we change what has been called a backward due process. I want to make sure that when a young person comes into our care that appropriate measures have already been undertaken to assume this is an appropriate placement. I want Yolo County to develop a contract with ORR that details more specifically how and why youth are placed in our facility rather than rely on federal procedures and practices that can be changed without our knowledge or consideration. I want these young people to have a fair and just opportunity to a hearing and access to free legal counsel.

As always, please email me at don.saylor@yolocounty.org to share your thoughts on this topic or any other matter.

In shared service,