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U.S. Plans to Detain Children Indefinitely

The Flores Settlement Agreement (“FSA”) is a court order from 1997 that said the US Government could not hold (in detention) immigrant families for more than 20 days. Back at the time that this agreement was entered into, there were many lawsuits against the US Government for treatment against immigrant children and families.

Transcript (Transcripción):

Andres Mejer: Trump wants to hold children indefinitely the Trump administration excuse me, is seeking to terminate the Flores settlement. That’s an immigration-related court order that prevents most migrant families from being held in detention centers for more than 20 days. This allows for indefinite detention. So this is a 1997 agreement that requires the government to release children and families. No children can’t be in detention for more than 20 days. Now during the 1980s at the time there was no USCIS or department on homeland security. It was ion s Immigration Naturalization Service the one agency that did everything they were accused of mistreating immigrant children and it resulted in a series of lawsuits that ended with the Flores settlement agreement now. The agreement was named after Jenny Liset Flores a 15-year-old girl from El Salvador. She fled her country in 1985 and tried to enter the United States with her aunt. Now. She was arrested at the border placed in juvenile detention. She was handcuffed. She was strip-searched. I mean it was inappropriate treatment and INS refused to give her custody to her and saying they don’t release minors to third party adults meaning third party not Mom not Dad. The ACLU filed the class-action lawsuit on behalf of Flores and any other minors which ultimately resulted in the Flores agreement designed, now that agreement was designed to be temporary giving time for the government to issue permanent rules, former regulations. It didn’t happen for two decades. All we had was the settlement five years after the agreement in 2002 the Homeland Security Act of 2002 split up the responsibilities of processing and caring for immigrant children between different agencies Office of Refugee Resettlement and customs border patrol. Still, people worried that even with that regulation even with that statute that elements of the Flores settlement were not being implemented. In 2008 Congress passed the William Wilber Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, Wow that’s a mouthful. Which codified parts of the settlement into federal law. In 2015 U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee ruled the Flores requirements apply to both unaccompanied minors and children apprehended with their parents. What’re unaccompanied minors. Those are children under 18 that essentially come alone. They don’t come with their parents. They’re unaccompanied. So in the past unaccompanied minors were what some summit only dealt with Judge G said no it’s not just unaccompanied minors. It’s also children with their parents. This means that all minors must be released from detention as quickly as possible. They can’t be detained for more than 20 days. The Trump administration has made repeated efforts to try to change the Flores settlement, arguing that it hinders their ability from deterring undocumented immigration. Last year Trump administration, if you will call, their zero-tolerance policy that led to thousands of family separations at the U.S. border. What they were doing again this is in order to deter illegal immigrants or any immigration into the United States. What the Trump administration was doing was separating children from their parents and in some cases telling their parents if you take an order of deportation will reunite you with your kids and many parents did but they weren’t always reunited. And there was lots of Congress plenty of articles that discussed about that so much so that Trump reversed and said we’re not going to do that anymore. Well, he’s still doing that. He just, they couch it in different terms. What they do know is they say oh well we can’t reunite a child with their with a criminal parent that’s done in the child’s best interest, except how did they define a criminal? Somebody who’s been in the U.S. before, somebody that was deported before, somebody was caught at the border. So that’s criminal activity justifying separation from parents. It’s terrible it’s horrible but it is happening. So to comply with the Flores settlement and prosecute 100 percent of all illegal border crossing the Trump administration was doing this separation. They detained adults in federal prisons while waiting for their criminal proceedings and sending children to health and human services facilities and shelters. Trump then reversed course issued an order keeping families together. But as we said and as we’ve discussed in other episodes, it’s still going on. It’s just a couch in a different way. Trump has asked Judge G to modify the Flores rules to give the administration maximum flexibility in handling family units. Code for, I want you to stay in jail until I deport you whether you’re a child or not. And Judge G has said. This is wholly without merit. There is no basis in your request. So what did Trump do? He just created a new rule after all. Flores settlement was supposed to be temporary. Waiting on the government to issue new rules. So they issued new rules allowing for family detention. I’m sure it doesn’t surprise you that lawsuits have been filed already against this regulation. And chances are they’re going to win. The whole point of the Flores settlement is to protect children. These regulations completely and totally undermine that. So that is an avenue where the courts will likely put a stop to what Trump is trying to do. But where there’s a will there’s a way, he will find another avenue to try to do this and for a while, it may work. And then until the courts stop it. And that’s kind of what we’re seeing here. There’s a clear pattern. Trump and his administration does not want immigrants period. It does not want refugees period. It doesn’t matter from anywhere but in particularly not from Central or South America.