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Lawsuits challenge government approach to immigrant children

Children who are held in immigration detention in Florida and across the country may face serious harm to their health and well-being. Over 10,000 of them are detained in different shelters nationwide, and several lawsuits say that the system is being used to punish children and their families and push them toward deportation. A federal mandate requires that children detained by immigration authorities be held in the least restrictive setting available, but many remain in government facilities despite having relatives in the United States who could care for them.

Many of the children held in immigration detention are teenagers who came to the United States as unaccompanied minors from Central America. In many cases, they are seeking asylum from violent gangs or government authorities. One class action lawsuit accuses federal agencies of working with immigration enforcement to take action against the sponsors of unaccompanied minors, putting their own immigration status at risk or seeking deportation against them. In the past year, 170 sponsors have been arrested and put into a deportation proceeding.

As a result, fewer sponsors may be willing to come forward to host unaccompanied minors due to the fear of harsh immigration enforcement. As a result, an increasing number of teens remain in detention facilities. One released memo noted that these federal agencies saw this policy as a "deterrent" and knew it would lead to an increase in the number of detained minors.

The Trump administration's approach to immigration policy has raised concerns among many people interacting with the system themselves. An immigration attorney can provide representation for people seeking asylum, including working to release them from detention and defend against deportation proceedings.

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