By JULIA PRESTON JULY 25, 2015
A federal judge in California has ruled that the Obama administration’s
detention of children and their mothers who were caught crossing the border
illegally is a serious violation of a longstanding court settlement, and that the
families should be released as quickly as possible.
In a decision late Friday roundly rejecting the administration’s arguments
for holding the families, Judge Dolly M. Gee of Federal District Court for the
Central District of California found that two detention centers in Texas that
the administration opened last summer fail to meet minimum legal
requirements of the 1997 settlement for facilities housing children.
Judge Gee also found that migrant children had been held in “widespread
deplorable conditions” in Border Patrol stations after they were first caught,
and she said the authorities had “wholly failed” to provide the “safe and
sanitary” conditions required for children even in temporary cells.
The opinion was a significant legal blow to detention polices ordered by
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in response to an influx of children
and parents, mostly from Central America, across the border in South Texas
last summer. In her 25page ruling, Judge Gee gave a withering critique of the
administration’s positions, declaring them “unpersuasive” and “dubious” and
saying officials had ignored “unambiguous” terms of the settlement.
The administration has struggled with a series of setbacks in the federal
courts for its immigration policies, including decisions that halted President
Obama’s programs to give protection from deportation and work permits to
millions of undocumented immigrants. Officials did not comment immediately
on the new ruling.
Judge Gee’s decision was based on the 18yearold settlement in a hardfought
class action lawsuit, known as Flores, that has governed the treatment
of minors apprehended at the border who are unaccompanied — not with a
parent. Judge Gee found that the Flores settlement, which has been carried
out with little dispute from the federal authorities, also applies to children
caught with their parents.
The judge also found that the family detention centers in Texas were a
“material breach” of provisions requiring that minors be placed in facilities
that are not secured like prisons and are licensed to take care of children. The
detention centers are secure facilities run by private prison contractors.
She ruled on a lawsuit that was filed in February by Peter Schey and
Carlos Holguin, lawyers at the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional
Law in Los Angeles. They sued after two months of negotiations between them
and the Justice Department produced no accord on how to change the
“I think this spells the beginning of the end for the Obama
administration’s immigrant family detention policy,” Mr. Schey, the president
of the human rights center, said Friday. “A policy that just targets mothers
with children is not rational and it’s inhumane.”
The detention of the mothers and children has drawn furious criticism
from immigrant advocates and religious and Latino groups, who have called
on the administration to shut the detention centers down.
Since last summer’s surge, Homeland Security officials opened detention
centers in Texas in Dilley and Karnes City, in addition to a small family center
already operating in Berks County, Pa. As of June 30, about 2,600 women and
children were held in the three centers, officials said.
Initially, Homeland Security officials said they were detaining the families
to send a message to others in Central America to deter them from coming to
the United States illegally. In February, a federal court in Washington, D.C.,
ruled that strategy unconstitutional. Officials stopped invoking deterrence as a
factor in deciding whether to release mothers and children as they seek asylum
in the United States.
But many women and children remained stalled behind bleak walls and
fences month after month with no end in sight. Mothers became severely
depressed or anxious, and their distress echoed in their children, who became
worried and sickly.
Under the Flores settlement, officials were required to try first to release a
child to a parent, legal guardian or close relative. Judge Gee concluded that if
the mother was also detained, Homeland Security officials should release her
with the child, as long as she did not present a flight or security risk. She gave
the administration until Aug. 3 to devise a plan to release children and
mothers “without unnecessary delay.”
For children who could not be released, the Flores agreement required
officials to place them in nonsecure facilities run by agencies licensed for child
On June 24, Mr. Johnson announced changes to shorten the length of
stay for most women and children in the centers. The pace of releases picked
up, and more than 150 women and children were freed in one week alone in
early July. Officials argued in recent court filings that Judge Gee was ruling on
practices no longer in place.
“This decision confirms that the mass detention of refugee children and
their mothers violates U.S. law,” said Elora Mukherjee, a law professor at
Columbia University who with her students has represented women at the
Texas detention centers. “Prolonging their detention even a single day in light
of this decision would be illegal.”
JULY 24, 2015
I AM tired of writing about slain black people, particularly when those
responsible are police officers, the very people obligated to serve and protect
them. I am exhausted. I experience this specific exhaustion with alarming
frequency. I am all too aware that I have the luxury of such exhaustion.
One of the greatest lies perpetrated on our culture today is the notion that
dash cameras on police cruisers and body cameras on police officers are tools
of justice. Video evidence, no matter the source, can document injustice, but
rarely does this incontrovertible evidence keep black people safe or prevent
Sandra Bland, 28 years old, was pulled over earlier this month in Waller
County, Tex., by a state trooper, Brian T. Encinia. She was pulled over for a
routine traffic stop. She shouldn’t have been pulled over but she was driving
while black, and the reality is that black women and men are pulled over every
day for this infraction brought about by the color of their skin.
We know a lot about Ms. Bland now. She was in the prime of her life,
about to start a new job at Prairie View A&M University. She had posted on
Facebook earlier this year that she was experiencing depression. She was
passionate about civil rights and advocacy. According to an autopsy report, she
committed suicide in her jail cell after three days. What I find particularly
painful is that her bail was $5,000. Certainly, that is a lot of money, but if the
public had known, we could have helped her family raise the funds to get her
As a black woman, I feel this tragedy through the marrow of my bones.
We all should, regardless of the identities we inhabit.
Recently, my brother and I were talking on the phone as he drove to work.
He is the chief executive of a publicly traded company. He was dressed for
work, driving a BMW. He was using a handsfree system. These particulars
shouldn’t matter but they do in a world where we have to constantly mourn
the loss of black lives and memorialize them with hashtags. In this same
world, we remind politicians and those who believe otherwise that black lives
matter while suffocated by evidence to the contrary.
During the course of our conversation, he was pulled over by an officer
who said he looked like an escapee from Pelican Bay State Prison in California.
It was a strange story for any number of reasons. My brother told me he would
call me right back. In the minutes I waited, my chest tightened. I worried. I
stared at my phone. When he called back, no more than seven or eight minutes
had passed. He joked: “I thought it was my time. I thought ‘this is it.’ ” He
went on with his day because this is a quotidian experience for black people
who dare to drive.
Each time I get in my car, I make sure I have my license, registration and
insurance cards. I make sure my seatbelt is fastened. I place my cellphone in
the handless dock. I check and double check and triple check these details
because when (not if) I get pulled over, I want there to be no doubt I am
following the letter of the law. I do this knowing it doesn’t really matter if I am
following the letter of the law or not. Law enforcement officers see only the
color of my skin, and in the color of my skin they see criminality, deviance, a
lack of humanity. There is nothing I can do to protect myself, but I am
comforted by the illusion of safety.
As a larger, very tall woman, I am sometimes mistaken for a man. I don’t
want to be “accidentally” killed for being a black man. I hate that such a
thought even crosses my mind. This is the reality of living in this black body.
This is my reality of black womanhood, living in a world where I am stripped
of my femininity and humanity because of my unruly black body.
There is a code of conduct in emergency situations — women and children
first. The most vulnerable among us should be rescued before all others. In
reality, this code of conduct is white women and children first. Black women,
black children, they are not afforded the luxury of vulnerability. We have been
shown this time and again. We remember McKinney, Tex., and a police officer,
David Casebolt, holding a young black girl to the ground. We say the names of
the fallen. Tamir Rice. Renisha McBride. Natasha McKenna. Tanisha
Anderson. Rekia Boyd. We say their names until our throats run dry and there
are still more names to add to the list.
During the illfated traffic stop, most of which was caught on camera, Mr.
Encinia asked Ms. Bland why she was irritated and she told him. She answered
the question she was asked. Her voice was steady, confident. Mr. Encinia
didn’t like her tone, as if she should be joyful about a traffic stop. He told Ms.
Bland to put her cigarette out and she refused. The situation escalated. Mr.
Encinia threatened to light her up with his Taser. Ms. Bland was forced to
leave her car. She continued to protest. She was placed in handcuffs. She was
treated horribly. She was treated as less than human. She protested her
treatment. She knew and stated her rights but it did not matter. Her black life
and her black body did not matter.
Because Sandra Bland was driving while black, because she was not
subservient in the manner this trooper preferred, a routine traffic stop became
a death sentence. Even if Ms. Bland did commit suicide, there is an entire
system of injustice whose fingerprints left bruises on her throat.
In his impassioned new memoir, “Between the World and Me,” TaNehisi
Coates writes, “In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body — it is
heritage.” I would take this bold claim a step further. It is also traditional to
try and destroy the black spirit. I don’t want to believe our spirits can be
broken. Nonetheless, increasingly, as a black woman in America, I do not feel
alive. I feel like I am not yet dead.
Roxane Gay is the author of “An Untamed State” and “Bad Feminist” and a
contributing opinion writer.
A version of this oped appears in print on July 25, 2015, on page A21 of the New York edition with
the headline: On the Death of Sandra Bland.
© 2015 The New York Times Company
By Amanda Marcotte JULY 24 2015 4:29 PM
When news emerged that a middle-aged white man in Lafayette, Louisiana opened fire at a showing of the Amy Schumer vehicle Trainwreck, I immediately had this sinking feeling that the movie choice wasn’t a coincidence—that this was, like the Elliot Rodger and George Sodini killings, an act of rage at women. While Trainwreck is a fluffy rom-com, it’s also a popular topic of chatter in the feminist-sphere, and therefore likely to be noticed by the seething misogynists who monitor the online activities of feminists with unsettling obsessiveness.
That fear is now moving from the uneasy-feeling column to the likely-possibility column, with Dave Weigel of the Washington Post reporting that alleged shooter John Russell Houser was a rabid right-winger—he even went to one of those unranked conservative Christian law schools—who had particularly strong anger towards women for their growing independence and rights. Former talk show host Calvin Floyd had Houser on as a frequent guest, knowing that his off-the-wall opinions would generate audience interest: “The best I can recall, Rusty had an issue with feminine rights,” Floyd said. “He was opposed to women having a say in anything.” Houser also had a history of domestic violence.
It would be nice, as Jessica Winter argued in Slate after the Charleston shooting, if this country could have a grown-up conversation about gun control in the wake of crimes like this. Instead, we’re just going to hear a bunch of ridiculous rhetoric about how more guns will fix this problem, as if Lafayette isn’t one of those parts of the country where every and their poodle is packing heat. But since that’s not happening, maybe we can talk about the continuing role that misogyny plays in the relentless drumbeat of gun violence in this country.
As my colleague Ben Mathis-Lilley noted today at Slatest, there were 14 other gun-based murder-suicides in the past week in this country, resulting in the loss of 36 lives. If you look down the list of the killings, an unmistakeable pattern pops out: “shot and killed his 37-year-old wife… shot and killed his ex-wife… shot and killed his 62-year-old wife… shot and killed his 23-year-old girlfriend…” and so on. Most of these killings involve men killing women that they were in a relationship with, had lost a relationship with, or likely wanted a relationship with, but were rejected. This last week also featured a bizarre story of a woman who not only survived being kidnapped and raped by a man but also saw her boyfriend and a random other man killed in the rapist-murderer’s rampage.
Hearing that some man’s entitled attitude towards women led him to kill is so common that it hardly counts as newsworthy. We don’t know exactly why yet Houser shot up a theater that was showing a movie written by an unapologetic feminist, but this moment should still be a wake-up call about the problem of misogynist violence in our culture. If we’re not going to talk about gun control, then let’s talk about how to get fewer men to see guns as the solution to their inchoate rage at women.
Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today.