Press releaseSeptember 6, 2018
Washington, D.C.—Today, the Trump administration took another step toward eliminating basic protections for immigrant children and their families by issuing a proposed rule that would dismantle child welfare protections established by the Flores Settlement Agreement for the detention and treatment of children in U.S. immigration custody. The agreement was required by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit decades ago to ensure the federal government was not violating the U.S. Constitution when dealing with children in immigration custody. The proposed rule issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would have the effect of dramatically expanding the number of detention centers that could hold families, ultimately leading to far more children and their families being held. The proposed rule would make way for the U.S. government to hold immigrant families indefinitely—certainly longer than the current 20 days required by the Flores Agreement—until parents can have their cases adjudicated, which can take months or years. It would also remove basic standards for how children and families are housed or the basic nutrition they are provided.
Following is the statement of Frederick Isasi, executive director of Families USA:
“Shockingly, despite the national outcry about children being detained at the border, the Trump administration’s latest proposed rule would open the door to greater use of family detention. It would mean longer detention of families—possibly for months or years—in poorer, possibly more dangerous conditions. This proposed rule is a significant step backward that strips basic protections from immigrant children and families.
“This action likely violates the U.S. Constitution. Every child within our borders has the right to be treated with love, compassion, and care.
“The Trump administration's latest proposed rule not only punishes immigrant children and their families in crisis, fleeing persecution, for exercising their legal right to seek asylum; it is antithetical to our nation’s basic values and history. Families should not be held in jail-like, detention centers that are damaging to the health and well-being of children, especially for prolonged periods of time. The long-standing Flores agreement stems from the mistreatment of immigrant children in the custody of the U.S. government. It remains integral to protecting the basic rights of children detained in these conditions.
“Let’s be clear. We are talking about children being detained in U.S. custody. These are some of the most vulnerable souls in our nation. Detention can be incredibly difficult and damaging for these kids and is a terrible source of toxic stress. Reports have documented the traumatic impact of family detention, including sexual assault, and the absence of meaningful mental health and medical care in these facilities.
“Let’s not forget that this proposed rule follows on the heels of the Trump administration’s disastrous policy to separate children from their parents at the border. Today, nearly 500 children remain in custody, essentially orphaned by the U.S. government. These lost souls have yet to be reunified with their families with no sense of when or if they will ever see their parents again.”