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WASHINGTON, D.C.—In its ongoing campaign to target immigrant families and fill the beds and coffers of the U.S. prison system, today the Trump administration issued regulations seeking to terminate a decades-old legal settlement that was created to protect the basic rights of immigrant children in U.S. custody.
The proposed rules would allow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to jail children indefinitely in facilities it “self-certifies” are safe for children, and rollback basic requirements for how children are treated in custody, including their access to food, education, and even hearings before an immigration judge. DHS’s bid to expand its authority and capacity to hold children in its sprawling network of jails and prisons comes even as the department’s own medical experts and inspector general have reported in recent months that the agency is unable or unwilling to ensure the basic safety and health of people in its custody. In recent weeks, the administration has sought to manipulate the congressional budgeting process to pay for tens of thousands of immigration detention beds, including at military bases and formerly shuttered detention camps, where children and their families could be held under the proposed regulations.

“At the end of a summer in which the Trump administration and Attorney General Sessions took thousands of children from their parents at the border, and failed to reunite many of them even after a federal court order, they continue to search for new ways to punish immigrant children and parents and funnel taxpayer money into DHS’s immigrant incarceration system,” said NIJC Director of Policy Heidi Altman. “Americans spoke out and made a difference in demanding an end to the family separation policy; saving the Flores protections is the next phase in the fight to protect these kids.”
The 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement, the result of litigation which originated in the 1980s when children fled alone to the United States to escape civil wars in Central America, protects immigrant children from indefinite detention in unsafe and inappropriate conditions. The agreement requires that children be released from custody as quickly as possible, preferably to a parent, and that until they can safely be released they are held in the least restrictive setting; generally, in a non-secure facility licensed by a child welfare entity.

While these regulations are pending, Congress is actively considering legislative changes that would give DHS greater funding and authority to jail immigrants. TAKE ACTION: Tell members of Congress to oppose family detention in any form and demand cuts to funding for immigration detention and enforcement.