Approximately seventy percent of the juveniles arrested for violation of immigration laws are unaccompanied by their parents or guardians. Many are refugees from Central America, sent ahead of their parents for safety reasons, or separated from their families during flight Prior to 1984, the Immigration and Naturalization Service ("INS") allowed release of these unaccompanied children to another responsible adult on the assurance that the adult would bring the child to court when required. In 1984, the Western Regional Office of the INS adopted the policy that minors in deportation proceedings would only be released to a parent or lawful guardian, except in "unusual and extraordinary cases." Reno v. Flores was a class action suit brought in response to the INS policy change and in protest of conditions at places of detention.

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