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Sept. 6, 2018 – Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued regulations that would effectively terminate the Flores Settlement Agreement, which currently requires the government to prioritize the welfare of the immigrant children it detains. These Trump administration rules would empower the government to jail children for longer periods of time in facilities not licensed or overseen by state agencies with expertise in the care and well-being of children, a proposal already considered and rejected by the federal court judge who oversees the enforcement of the Flores Settlement Agreement. It would also strip children who arrive to the United States unaccompanied by a parent or legal guardian of the few legal protections that apply to them, if at any point in their interaction with the immigration system an immigration officer decides that they no longer meet the legal definition of “unaccompanied.” These proposed rules will be published tomorrow in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) where the public has 60 days to comment.

Said Rachel Prandini, Staff Attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center:

“By eroding the limited protections against mistreatment that detained children have through the Flores Settlement Agreement, we can expect even more children to be subjected to drastically worse detention conditions and our society as a whole will suffer from the long-term consequences of the trauma that our government is inflicting on children. Both family separation and the detention of children have been condemned by leading medical professionals and the American Academy of Pediatrics as having the potential to cause negative health effects that can last a lifetime. The Trump administration’s decision to exacerbate the suffering of kids, by imposing the cruel policy of family separation earlier this summer and now with this rule change to vastly expand detention of children, is horrifying.

“If there were ever a moment for this administration to show just an ounce of compassion in its decision-making, this is it. Instead of eviscerating Flores, which has been the bedrock of the limited rights that children do have and the most important mechanism that exists to allow children to challenge mistreatment, we should be looking for opportunities and creative solutions to take better care of the traumatized, unaccompanied children in our country.”

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center will be participating in the public comment period. The ILRC, one of the few technical assistance organizations with expertise on immigrant youth, published a practice advisory last year that explains why one of many enforcement actions brought to the Flores Settlement Agreement, Flores v. Sessions, was necessary, what its impact may be for detained youth, and detailed practice tips for advocates representing detained children seeking bond hearings. To view a recent webinar on the detention and deportation system for immigrant children, please visit: https://www.ilrc.org/detention-and-deportation-system-unaccompanied-minors-webinar-recording-0.

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) is a national nonprofit that works with immigrants, community organizations, legal professionals, and policy makers to build a democratic society that values diversity and the rights of all people. Through community education programs, legal training & technical assistance, and policy development & advocacy, the ILRC protects and defends the fundamental rights of immigrant families and communities.