Young Center Statement on Draft Flores Regulations

Trump Administration Guts Protections for Immigrant Children

September 7, 2018, Chicago IL – Yesterday, the administration released draft regulations intended to allow the government to terminate decades-old safeguards and protections for immigrant children codified in the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement.

The Flores Agreement sets minimum standards for the detention, release, and treatment of all immigrant children. The agreement follows key child welfare principles, including the right to family unity and limits on detention. The Trump administration has made the elimination of these protections one of its central policy goals, part of its broader effort to deter the migration of children and families seeking protection, as is their right under U.S. and international law. Jennifer Nagda, Policy Director at the Young Center, said “the Flores agreement is not a ‘loophole’ that needs to be closed nor an impediment to fair immigration laws. It contains vital protections that limit the detention of children in unsafe and inappropriate conditions.”

If the administration implements these proposed rules, children and families will face indefinite immigration detention. This is unacceptable. Even brief periods of detention can cause psychological trauma and induce long-term mental health risks for children.
— Maria Woltjen

DHS’s proposed regulations would allow the agency to avoid state licensing requirements for the detention of children. Instead, DHS would “self-certify” that its jails are safe for children. Thus, the same agency responsible for separating children from their parents this summer will be allowed to determine what constitutes the humane treatment of those same children and parents when they are locked up together. DHS’s proposed rules would also pave the way for indefinite detention of immigrant children and families, a move which the government’s own experts have concluded to be unnecessary, inappropriate and “never in the best interest of children.”

The proposed agreement also allows DHS to re-evaluate and potentially re-determine a child’s status as an unaccompanied child on an ongoing basis. This proposed rule could strip children of critical child-appropriate protections and procedures that provide due process and allow them the necessary time and safe space to recover from trauma as they apply for legal relief.

Young Center Executive Director Maria Woltjen said: “If the administration implements these proposed rules, children and families will face indefinite immigration detention. This is unacceptable. Even brief periods of detention can cause psychological trauma and induce long-term mental health risks for children.” Woltjen continued, “at its core, the Flores settlement agreement reflects an understanding that immigrant children should not be locked up. Any regulation that permits the indefinite detention of children is fundamentally inconsistent with that agreement.”

The Young Center adamantly opposes these draft regulations and calls on the administration to uphold—not eliminate—the protections in the Flores settlement agreement. 

Contact: media@theyoungcenter.org

Maddie Witters