With the Thursday morning news that the Trump administration is trying to amend the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement that has limited detention of child migrants to just 20 days, several immigrant rights and legal groups have already spoken out against the government’s intentions, one of which would be prolonged detention of migrant children with their parents. They also reacted to what DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement: “Today, legal loopholes significantly hinder the Department’s ability to appropriately detain and promptly remove family units that have no legal basis to remain in the country,” said , in a statement. “This rule addresses one of the primary pull factors for illegal immigration and allows the federal government to enforce immigration laws as passed by Congress.”
Here is just a sample of the reactions.
Peter Schey, President of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, which filed the Flores case in 1985 and negotiated its settlement in 1997
“DHS Secretary Nielsen wrongly labels the Flores settlement’s protections for children a ‘legal loophole’ that hinders the Department’s ability to detain and deport family units. The DHS Secretary falsely claims that the 1997 Flores settlement is one of the primary pull factors for illegal immigration. These assertions may be music to President Trump who has repeatedly criticized the Flores settlement’s protections for children, but have no basis in fact. Refugee children should not be made to suffer inhumane treatment and prolonged and unnecessary detention just to satisfy President Trump’s zero tolerance approach to refugees seeking safety in the United States from the violence and lawlessness spreading throughout Central America. Border apprehension data over the past twenty years shows that the Flores settlement has had nothing to do with the number of refugees seeking to enter the United States from Central America. Treating children humanely and not detaining them in often intolerable conditions is not a legal loophole, as the Secretary of Homeland Security claims. It is the way civilized nations treat vulnerable children with due regard to their tender age and lack of culpability for the circumstances in which they find themselves. We will oppose in court any effort to terminate the Flores settlement unless and until the Government proposes regulations that provide for the safe and humane treatment of detained children and that are fully consistent with the terms of the settlement we negotiated in 1997.”
Jess Morales Rocketto, Political Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance
“It’s unbelievably cruel that this administration has extended their campaign of ethnic cleansing to children with no remorse. After dragging their feet on reuniting the 497 children who are still in government custody and separated from their families, the Trump administration is trying to force to keep children behind bars indefinitely. No one who is directly responsible for traumatizing thousands of children can be in charge of our country’s safety. Leading figures in the Senate and a growing number of Americans have asked for Secretary Nielsen’s resignation and people keep adding their names every day.”
Efrén C. Olivares, Racial and Economic Justice Director for the Texas Civil Rights Project
“The Trump administration has found a new low in the family separation crisis: seeking indefinite imprisonment of children. Any attempt to withdraw from the Flores Settlement Agreement in order to circumvent previous court orders and expand family detention is wholly unacceptable. For months, we watched in horror as children were ripped from their parents, but the remedy for family separation is not, and never will be, indefinitely locking up whole families in immigration prisons.
“The courts simply will not allow this humanitarian crisis to serve as an excuse for the Trump administration to back out of a legally binding settlement, like Flores. Instead of attempting to violate the rights of yet more families, the government should be focused on reuniting the hundreds of families still separated, including the dozens of parents who were deported without their children and those who remain detained without their children.”
Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
“One year ago, the Trump administration sent a clear xenophobic message by announcing the end of DACA. The drumbeat continues with the proposal to replace the disastrous ‘family separation’ policy with an expansion of cruel ‘family detention’ policy. Instilling fear in immigrant communities and locking up children does not make us safer or stronger. Keeping innocent children jailed in terrible conditions for even longer periods is a direct affront to our nation’s core values and we demand that this administration end these callous and cruel policies immediately. There are proven, humane, and inexpensive alternatives to detention that the administration could use, but today’s proposal shows the administration is not interested in effective policy solutions.”
Allison Julien, long-time nanny and We Dream in Black New York Organizer
“We spend our days caring for children, and we know they need sunlight and freedom to live full and healthy lives, not bars and cages. No child should have to experience this kind of trauma, harm, or fear. As caregivers, It is our duty to put a stop to any neglect or harm of children. We won’t let this administration hurt any more children—not on our watch.”
Here is the document about the amendments to the Flores Agreement that the federal government has made public: