CHRC Response to DHS and HHS termination of Flores Settlement Agreement

September 3, 2019

On August 21, the Trump administration announced rules that would allow the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services to terminate the Flores Settlement Agreement (FSA). The FSA was established in 1997 and provided national standards of custody, care, and placement for immigrant children who crossed into the United States without authorization. The FSA mandated that immigrant children must be released into the custody of a sponsor within 20 days and that incarceration of children is only appropriate as a last resort.

The Center for the Human Rights of Children condemns this action and urges the Trump Administration to reconsider its decision. The Trump administration has stated that the termination of the FSA will deter families from attempting to enter the United States. This perspective is shortsighted and ignores the economic, political, environmental, and humanitarian reasons why families choose to leave their homes and journey to the United States. Just as the administration’s implementation of a “zero-tolerance” immigration policy did little to decrease the number of families crossing into the United States, the termination of the FSA will not end unauthorized migration to the United States. However, this policy change, like “zero-tolerance,” will have a drastic impact on the children and their families who cross into the United States.

The Center for the Human Rights of Children emphatically opposes the termination of FSA and the protracted incarceration of children that will follow. The FSA acknowledged that immigrant children are more vulnerable than adults and require additional safeguards while in the custody of U.S. immigration agencies. The FSA also mandated that children be kept in the least restrictive environment while in detention centers, and that they have access to information, treatment, and services while detained. Without these protections and minimum standards of care, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human services will be able to detain children indefinitely in inhumane conditions. This is needlessly cruel and unacceptable. Children have inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the family. The termination of Flores protections strips children of those rights and diminishes their dignity as human beings, while accomplishing nothing but unwarranted cruelty.

This policy change contravenes domestic and international laws, norms, and best practices. Domestic child welfare laws, as well as the standards laid forth in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, reaffirm that children should only be held in detention as a last resort and that what is in the best interest of children should be the guiding principle for the agencies and individuals charged with their care.

No child should be arbitrarily deprived of their liberty or receive an inferior standard of care due to their immigration status.

The Trump administration’s decision to dismantle Flores protections for immigrant children is dehumanizing, cruel, and unnecessary.