The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Health and Human Services (HHS) have proposed new rules for the treatment of children in immigration detention. Their proposal would end the Flores Settlement that has protected children since 1997.
“The proposed regulations would not take effect immediately. Publishing them in the Federal Register triggers a 60-day period for public comments.
“The proposal comes weeks after the Trump administration was denied permission to detain children for unlimited periods of time. Gee, the judge who oversees the Flores agreement, in July rebuked the Justice Department’s request, calling it “a cynical attempt, on an ex parte basis, to shift responsibility to the judiciary for over 20 years of congressional inaction and ill-considered executive action that have led to the current stalemate.”
Before the Flores settlement, children were held along with unrelated adults, and were denied education and recreation and family visits. The lead plaintiff, 14-year-0ld Jenny Flores “spent two months at a Pasadena, California, detention facility that put her in the company of adults she didn’t know and subjected her to regular strip searches.”
DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen dismisses the Flores settlement rules protecting children as “loopholes.”
Anastasia Tonello, president of the American Association of Immigration Attorneys, says of the latest Trump proposal:
“These regulations would eliminate long-standing, court-mandated protections for minors, resulting in more families, including young children, being detained for longer periods of time. The proposed changes flout a federal court order ruling that the government cannot detain people for the purpose of deterrence. But beyond that, they threaten the safety and wellbeing of children supposedly under the care of the federal government. For more than twenty years, administrations have been bound by the Flores national standards regarding the detention, release, and treatment of children. Stripping away these fundamental humanitarian protections will only benefit private prisons and waste billions in taxpayer money to jail children and their parents. This administration should uphold American values and protect children in its care, use cost-effective, humane options for release from detention, and provide families and children a meaningful chance to claim asylum which our laws require, rather than implementing regulations to detain children indefinitely.”
Consider the children already in government custody:
- More than 400 children are still in government custody, more than 40 days after the deadline set by a federal judge for reuniting them with their families.
- In Shiloh Detention Center, staff forcibly administer psychotropic medications, without parental consent, and in violation of a direct judicial order to stop doing so. The children are still there in violation of a specific judicial order to remove them because of abuse.
- Many children who have been reunited with their families are still in detention—with their parents.
The Trump administration is already flouting judicial orders and ignoring existing child protections. Now they intend to go even further.