The Trump Administration’s Shameful Flores Rule Endangers Children

Washington, D.C., August 21, 2019—Today the Trump Administration announced a final rule that would weaken protections for migrant children and make it easier to imprison them and their families for longer periods of time. More than two decades ago, the so-called Flores settlement established basic protections for migrant children in government custody, including limits on the length of time they can be held in immigration detention and standards for detention center conditions such as access to food and drinking water, emergency medical assistance, and bathroom facilities. The settlement applies to both unaccompanied children and those who arrive with a parent or legal guardian. Unless it is delayed by litigation, the final rule states it would be effective 60 days from date of publication.

The following statement can be attributed to Wendy Cervantes, Director of Immigration and Immigrant Families at the Center for Law and Social Policy.

The final Flores rule announced today is yet another example of the Trump Administration’s blatant disregard for children’s health and safety. If implemented, the rule will deny asylum-seeking children basic necessities, and they and their families will face indefinite imprisonment. This rule stands in stark contrast to decades of child welfare research and practice that uphold the best interests of children.

I’ve witnessed the desperation of mothers, children, and babies in U.S. detention facilities. Children don’t belong in jail for any reason. Even a short amount of time in detention is proven to have profound negative impacts on children’s mental and physical health. We also know that family detention creates additional trauma and undermines the parent-child relationship that’s so fundamental for children’s early development.

The final rule institutionalizes the harmful practice of family detention. The rule also circumvents state child welfare laws by allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—a federal agency with a shameful track record of abuse—to establish and regulate its own family detention centers. Just last year a toddler named Mariee Juarez was the first child to die in ICE custody as a result of inadequate medical treatment in the Dilley family detention center in Texas. Mariee would likely still be alive today had she been released as required by the Flores settlement and received appropriate medical care for her age.

We can’t allow any more children to suffer from cruel and reckless immigration policies. And we can’t allow the Trump Administration to ignore decades of child development research in a misguided effort to deter migration, particularly when effective alternatives like family case management models are available. CLASP is working with our partners to fight this rule—including support for litigation efforts—and to ensure all children who enter our country are treated with the dignity and compassion they deserve.