A San Francisco law firm is seeking the release of a 17-year-old Guatemalan refugee being held at the Yolo County Juvenile Detention Facility.
Attorneys filed suit against the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement in U.S. District Court last week, alleging the boy, identified only as B.D.A.C., was unlawfully separated from his family after arriving in the United States in December 2017 and is being held under false allegations of gang affiliation.
The ORR contracts with Yolo County to house unaccompanied refugee minors at the juvenile detention center in Woodland. Under the terms of the contract — which was renewed by the Yolo County Board of Supervisors in June — the facility provides beds for up to 24 refugee minors who arrived in the United States without a parent and who have either been adjudicated of a crime or are considered a danger to themselves or others.
They remain at the Woodland facility until they can either be reunited with family, placed in foster care or returned to their countries of origin.
However, attorneys for B.D.A.C. say the 17-year-old’s mother, who lives in Ohio, requested that her son be released to her in December 2017, but “ORR has nevertheless failed to adjudicate (her) reunification request.”
Instead, he has been kept in locked facilities where his mental health has deteriorated, attorneys contend.
According to the court filing, immigration authorities apprehended B.D.A.C., his older sisters and their families at the border in December 2017 and quickly released all but B.D.A.C. from immigration detention. His mother was already living in Ohio at the time.
“(R)ather than releasing B.D.A.C. along with his family, the Office of Refugee Resettlement has detained him for the last 11 months — with the last 10 months of that detention occurring in locked juvenile detention facilities in Virginia and California,” the boy’s attorneys said in their court filing.
“ORR claims that in December 2017, B.D.A.C. admitted to being a gang member,” attorneys said. “This statement is false; substantial objective evidence disproves this claim. ORR’s own records concede that there is no evidence that B.D.A.C. has ever been in a gang.”
Rather, the court filing says, the boy is a survivor of substantial childhood abuse, including a kidnapping at the hands of gang members in Guatemala and a series of sexual assaults he suffered at age 9.
The post-traumatic stress he suffers from “makes him an unreliable narrator of his own life story,” attorneys said.
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