Lawyers File Motion in Effort to Help Immigrant Children

  • Nov 9 2018

There’s no denying that the Trump Administration’s stance on immigration has ruffled a few feathers. Lawyers have now filed a motion in order to stop the government from enacting laws that they believe would cause danger to immigrant children.  The Trump Administration could, however, enact these new rules soon, which lawyers claim would violate the Flores Settlement, which protects children’s rights.

Indefinite Detention

The laws in question, proposed by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services, would allow for immigrant children to be detained in unlicensed family detention centers indefinitely.

Holly Cooper, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the Flores case, and also the co-director of the immigration law clinic at the University of California, Davis expressed her concerns. “It would be disastrous. We’ll see the indefinite detention of children in prison-like conditions.”

Replacing the Flores Settlement

The Trump administration wishes to replace the Flores Settlement, which sets mandatory standards for the health and services for the facilities that the government uses to hold children for the least amount of time as possible.

In response to the concerns of the administration’s new regulations, it said that the new laws would maintain those standards of the Flores Settlement by making sure that all migrant children are “treated with dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors.”

Release to a Parent or Legal Guardian Only

However, children’s advocacy groups believe that the new laws would contradict the 1997 Settlement, which was intended to minimize detention times and restricting the children as little as possible. This is because the new proposed regulations would allow for children to be detained in family detention facilities without a time restriction, whereas the Flores Settlement specifically states that children should be released in the least amount of time possible, to a parent, legal guardian, relative or unrelated adult who the minor’s parents elect. Under the proposed laws, children could only be released to a “parent or legal guardian not in detention.” Because their parent of legal guardian is the only one to whom they can be released, it makes it difficult for those children who are detained with their parents to leave the facility.

A Possible Work-Around

Since the Flores standards would require that unlicensed facilities should not hold children in for longer than 20 days, and family residential facilities are not licensed, the government can get around the Settlement’s licensing standards by outlining a self-licensing process.

Long-Term Effects

A major concern for these children centers around the potential long-term effects that detention can have on children’s mental and physical well-being. Cooper explained that children who are detained often develop psychiatric issues or even contemplate suicide.

Luckily, if the regulations are put into effect prior to a ruling on the motion, lawyers who represent detained children as part of the Flores Settlement will still have 45 days to challenge the decision in court.

Posted in: Immigration Law