The Trump administration intends to withdraw from the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement, which imposes obligations on immigration authorities regarding children who are held with their parents in family immigration detention centers, according to a report slated for publication Friday on the Federal Register’s website.
“The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services (“the departments”) propose to amend regulations relating to the apprehension, processing, care, custody and release of alien juveniles,” the document states.
The administration states in the more than 200-page report that it wants to replace the FSA to be able to detain immigrant families for as long their immigration cases are pending, which would go against the maximum 20-day limit for minors currently set by the agreement.
The document further reads that the new rule proposals, according to the administration, “would satisfy the basic purpose of the FSA in ensuring that all juveniles in the government’s custody are treated with dignity, respect and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors, while doing so in a manner that is workable in light of subsequent changes.”
Such changes are expected to face opposition
Efrén C. Olivares, the racial and economic justice director for the Alamo-based Texas Civil Rights Project, said detaining families longer is not the solution to family separations.
“The Trump administration has found a new low in the family separation crisis: seeking indefinite imprisonment of children,” Olivares said in a prepared statement. “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.”
He said instead of threatening to withdraw from the agreement, the administration should be working toward reuniting the children who still remain separated from their parents.
“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,” Olivares said. “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.”
The proposals come on the heels of a national outcry as a result of the separations that began in May, after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the “zero tolerance” policy, which urged U.S. prosecutors to prosecute all illegal entry and reentry cases, leading to the separation of children from parents.
TCRP gained notoriety during the period in which the policy was in place and represented nearly 400 families during the separation of children from their parents along the U.S.-Mexico border.
To date, nearly 500 children remain separated from their parents and in the custody of the U.S. government in detention facilities.