TRUMP ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES FINAL RULE TO CHANGE FLORES SETTLEMENT AND ALLOW LONGER DETENTION OF MIGRANT CHILDREN

Written by: Taher Kameli, Esq.

The anti-immigration policies of the Trump administration have especially harsh consequences when applied to migrant families.  This point is especially true when these policies are applied to migrant children. As another example of the adverse policies of the Trump administration toward migrant children, on August 21, the Trump administration announced a final rule to change the Flores settlement and allow the longer detention of migrant children.

The Flores settlement arose from the 1997 case of Flores v. Reno.  It requires the government to release children from immigration detention without unnecessary delay (generally a 20-day limit) to their parents, other adult relatives or licensed programs.  It also requires the government to give detained minors a certain quality of life, including things such as food, drinking water, and medical assistance. It has been ruled that the Flores requirements apply to both unaccompanied minors and children apprehended with their parents.  

The final rule announced by the Trump administration would change the Flores settlement by detaining undocumented families together indefinitely, allowing for the longer detention of migrant children (including beyond any 20-day limit).  The families would be detained at “family residential centers”, which would have medical, educational and private housing facilities, and access to indoor and outdoor entertainment, legal counsel, and translation services.  These “family residential centers” would be licensed and subject to oversight by the federal government.            

In announcing the final rule, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin K. McAleenan stated, “Today, the government has issued a critical rule that will permit the Department of Homeland Security to appropriately hold families together and improve the integrity of the immigration system. . . . This rule allows the federal government to enforce immigration laws as passed by Congress and ensures that all children in U.S. government custody are treated with dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability”.  In addition, in announcing the final rule, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar stated, “The Department of Health and Human Services, through our Office of Refugee Resettlement, provides quality and compassionate care for unaccompanied alien children who are referred to our custody. . . . In this rule, we are implementing the relevant and substantive portions of the Flores Settlement Agreement pertaining to standards for the temporary care, placement, and release of those minors.  As before, HHS will continue to protect the safety and dignity of unaccompanied alien children in our custody as we seek to place them with a parent, relative, or other suitable sponsor”.              

The final rule was criticized by immigration advocacy groups.  Peter Schey, President of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, stated, “This effort puts on full display President Trump’s callous indifference to the health and safety, indeed even the lives, of detained minor children”.  Madhuri Grewal, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, stated, “This is yet another cruel attack on children, who the Trump administration has targeted again and again with its anti-immigrant policies. . . . The government should not be jailing kids, and certainly shouldn’t be seeking to put more kids in jail for longer”.

The final rule is due to take effect in 60 days, but likely will be challenged in litigation.

Whatever the immigration issue may be – green cards, temporary protected status, asylum, as described above, detention of migrant children, and many other issues – immigrants need to assume that the Trump administration will take an adverse position with respect to immigrant rights on the issue.  In this environment, immigrants need the support of qualified immigration law counsel, such as the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, which has successfully represented immigrants for many years, to help resolve their immigration issues. If you need help with the Trump administration’s changes to the Flores settlement, or any other immigration issue, please contact the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, at taher@kameli.com or 312-233-1000, for assistance.