Challenging Family Detention

Starting in 2006 with the opening of the federal government’s T. Don Hutto family immigration detention center in Taylor, Texas, the clinic has engaged in impact litigation as well as individual representation to end family detention practices. Working in collaboration with other groups, the clinic succeeded in ending family detention at Hutto in 2009.

The Documentary film The Least of These features UT Immigration Clinic’s legal work on behalf of detained families at Hutto.

In 2014, the federal government returned to its family detention practices, holding mothers and children in massive detention facilities in Karnes City and Dilley, Texas. The clinic resumed its work to end family detention and to provide representation to detained families. Clinic students helped more than a dozen Central American families achieve release from detention so that they could be reunited with relatives elsewhere in the United States while they pursue their asylum claims.

Clinic students also won a refugee claim on the merits for a Honduran mother and her nine-year old son who were detained for six months, and the clinic continues to represent several other families who await their final hearings. In collaboration with the ACLU and the law firm of Covington & Burling, the clinic pursued federal litigation and won a reversal of the government’s policy initially refusing to release families on bond.

The clinic also collaborated with the Civil Rights Clinic to engage in other advocacy efforts relating to family detention, including preparation of a brief to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.