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The state’s third-largest city took the unusual step of suing federal officials who were holding immigrant children in federal custody until their parents were deported.
In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Santa Monica asked that its legal status be restored and that the federal government return the young immigrants to Santa Monica, where their parents were born.
The lawsuit follows the release of an Associated Press report that said Homeland Security agents in New York, New Jersey and California had placed the children in federal detention for five days in July before they were shipped to Los Angeles, where their parents were waiting for deportation.
A spokesman for the federal immigrant children’s services agency told the Associated Press the children and their parents had arrived legally last week and were being processed as children under the age of 5, and that the agency was complying with the law — except for the parents of the five children, who were detained before they could be deported.
Santa Monica, one of the few California cities where coyotes are thriving, and one of California’s oldest cities, began searching for the children last month. Mayor Joe Dutra said in a letter that the city had become a ‘jurisdiction of epic proportions.’
The city’s lawsuit names former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, the state of California and Homeland Security director Janet Napolitano as defendants who have been “unlawfully detaining and prosecuting undocumented people for the federal government.”
Chertoff has since resigned from his position. Holder has said his views on immigration policy had changed. Napolitano has said the U.S. government will not deport the children.
The newspaper reported that a Homeland Security spokeswoman said Wednesday that “the facts remain unclear” about why the children were in the custody of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency instead of the children’s own parents.
The Times said that, in a statement released Wednesday