Texas Ruling May Allow Licensing of Migrant Family Detention


The 3rd Texas Court of Appeals recently overturned a lower court ruling that could allow the state to formally issue child-care licenses to two detention centers in the South Texas cities of Dilley and Karnes that house immigrant families. Since the centers are not licensed child-care facilities, the Flores settlement, a landmark court decision restricting the detention of immigrant children, requires the government to release immigrant children from them within 20 days of their detention, which also often resulted in the simultaneous release of their parents. These two detention facilities comprise most of the detention space available for immigrant families at the present time, or about 3,500 people.

The state of Texas had attempted to provide child-care licenses to these facilities via a special regulation shortly after they opened in 2016, but the ruling of an Austin judge halted those efforts. That ruling was based on the fact that the regulation would have allowed the facilities to function as licensed child-care facilities without them having to comply with statewide minimum facility standards with which all other licensed child-care facilities must comply. This includes standards that prohibit children from sharing bedrooms with unrelated adults.

The appellate court now has overturned that decision and dismiss the suit. The court based its decision on its finding that the advocacy group Grassroots Leadership and various parents who formerly were detained in the facility had no legal standing to challenge the decisions of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which is the state agency that issues child-care licenses. Therefore, the appellate court dismissed the entire lawsuit, ensuing that the regulation cannot be challenged.

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