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A nationwide class-action lawsuit was filed against the Obama administration on Tuesday challenging a policy that locks up mothers and children seeking asylum. The lawsuit alleges that the U.S. detains asylum seekers to “intimidate others from coming to the United States.”

Immigration officials have found all of the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit to have a “credible fear” of persecution, meaning there is a “significant possibility” she or he will be granted asylum. The ACLU argues the plaintiffs would have been released to family sponsors in the United States, “as DHS has done in the past” but due to a “no-release policy,” “DHS has refused to release plaintiffs on bond, recognizance, or other conditions.”

"Locking up families and depriving them of their liberty in order to scare others from seeking refuge in the U.S. is inhumane and illegal," Judy Rabinovitz, deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, said in a statement.

The ACLU lawsuit alleges Homeland Security adopted the “no-release policy” for Central American families after an unprecedented number of families and unaccompanied minors entered the U.S. seeking asylum.

In 2009, only 3,304 “unaccompanied alien children” from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras were “encountered” at the U.S. border, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. By June of this year, that number had jumped to 43,933, according to government data.

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"The government should not be using these mothers and their children as pawns. They have already been through devastating experiences, and imprisoning them for weeks or months while they await their asylum hearings is unnecessary and traumatizing." Rabinovitz said.

The ACLU argues the  “blanket no-release policy” is a violation of federal immigration law and regulations, as well as the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

ICE did not respond to a request for comment by the time this story was published.