Detained mothers have standing to sue the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services over a licensing rule governing immigration detention centers because they allege concrete personal injuries traceable to the adoption of the rule, the state’s high court said Friday.
A court of appeals previously held that detainee mothers lacked standing to assert their claims over Rule 748.7 of the Texas Adminstrative Code. That rule establishes licensing requirements for immigrant family residential detention centers. It also provides an exception to state childcare licensing standards that prohibit housing adults and children in the same bedroom, so long as the room is being shared to allow the immigrant child to remain with a parent or other family member.
The nonprofit group Grassroots Leadership and several detainee mothers, individually and on behalf of their children, sued the DFPS seeking a permanent injunction to stop the room-sharing rule. The plaintiffs argue that in some of the detention facilities, two or more unrelated families shared a bedroom with a child. They allege that the rule has led to longer detention periods at the center and that one minor was sexually assaulted while sharing her room with an unrelated adult.
The court of appeals held that the mothers didn’t allege an injury traceable to the rule.
The Texas Supreme Court reversed. It said the appeals court wrongly concluded that the rule limits adult-child bedroom sharing to family member adults.
DFPS and private contractors who operate the facilities argued that the alleged harm wasn’t traceable to the rule because two of the family residential centers already housed children with unrelated adults before the rule’s adoption. But a 2015 federal order prohibited housing children and unrelated adults together in those two centers, unless it was under the rule’s exemption to keep children and adult family members together, the high court said.
The plaintiffs have therefore adequately alleged concrete harm in the form of increased risk of sexual assaults to minor detainees sharing rooms with unrelated adults, “as well as the invasion of the children’s privacy from such room-sharing,” the high court said.
Justice Jimmy Blacklock didn’t participate in the decision.
Alexander Dubose & Jefferson LLP represented Grassroots Leadership. The Texas Attorney General’s office represented DFPS.
The case is Grassroots Leadership Inc. v. Tex. Dep’t of Family and Prot. Serv., Tex., No.19-0092, 6/17/22.