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HIAS Statement on Proposal to Terminate Flores Agreement

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SILVER SPRING, Md. -- Today the Trump Administration proposed regulatory changes to the Flores Settlement Agreement, a class action lawsuit against the government that challenged the detention, processing, and release practices relating to immigrant youth and children. The agreement is in place to protect arriving children and youth who, because of their age, are more vulnerable to re-traumatization, especially as many are already running away from extreme forms of violence. With the proposed rulemaking to the Flores Settlement Agreement, the Administration seeks to roll back these protections.

In response to the proposed regulations, Naomi Steinberg, HIAS’ Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy, said: “This is yet another attempt by the Trump Administration to punish immigrant families, including asylum seekers. The Administration wants to be able to detain children and families indefinitely, which we know is not the right answer. It all comes down to this: children do not belong behind bars.”

The Flores Agreement was originally enacted to protect immigrant children - both unaccompanied and accompanied - from unsafe and indefinite detention. It also ensured that children would be released or held in the least restrictive setting available. The agreement states that all migrant children should be “treated with dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors.”

Some of the proposed changes would allow the government to:       

  • Detain children with their families indefinitely: Family Residential Centers could be used to detain families together for indefinite periods of time, including during the entirety of their immigration proceedings, which often last over a year.  

  • Create loopholes to ignore provisions under the current regulation: While current regulations require that children are sent to a licensed facility within 3 days, and require a specific standard of care for children, the proposed changes would allow immigration enforcement to bypass these regulations.

Steinberg noted it is critical to remember that many of the families and children arriving at our southern border are seeking protection and safety. “These proposed changes will only bring more trauma to the lives of these children, and criminalize families for seeking protection,” Steinberg said.