A federal court this week ordered the administration to pay more than $1 million in fees to lawyers who won a major case forcing the federal government to treat illegal immigrant children better while in U.S. care.
The award was a spanking for the Obama administration, which had fought and lost in court, trying to defend the facilities that held the children while in immigration custody.
U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee said that because the Obama administration’s position had been so overwhelmingly wrong, under the law the government should be forced to pay the costs of the lawyers who won the case.
She approved a rate of $875 per hour for Peter Schey, the lead lawyer challenging the Obama administration, and $725 an hour for Carlos Holguin — or about four times the usual rate of $190 an hour.
Judge Gee said they were worth the money because of their special skills and in-depth knowledge of the case, which helped them win better treatment at government detention facilities.
“Until the federal administration starts to treat apprehended and detained immigrant children with the care and respect they deserve, we will continue to invoke the protection of the federal courts and the government will keep wasting its limited resources on litigation costs and attorneys fees for defending illegal and harmful practices,” Mr. Schey, president of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, told The Washington Times.
The case was the latest installment of a legal battle dating back to 1986 over the treatment of some illegal immigrants.
Under a Clinton-era deal, the government agreed to certain conditions for holding illegal immigrant children caught traveling without parents — so-called Unaccompanied Alien Children, or UAC. They became an issue again under President Barack Obama when tens of thousands of them streamed into the U.S. from 2012 to 2016, pushed by rough conditions at home and enticed by lax enforcement here.
Under the Clinton-era deal, known as the Flores Settlement, children had to be guaranteed levels of food, a comfortable temperature and health care while they were being held by the government.
Judge Gee also ruled that they couldn’t be kept in “secure” facilities with guards and locked doors, and said they had to be quickly released.
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