FWD.us Statement on Trump Administration’s Proposal to Terminate the Flores Settlement Agreement

We have been public since this crisis began in May that this effort to allow for the indefinite detention of children, with their parents, was always the plan. Here are the reasons why this proposed rule is a terrible step in the wrong direction.

WASHINGTON, DC – The Trump Administration today published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) seeking to end the Flores Settlement Agreement (FSA) that has been in place for decades and is designed to protect the well-being and basic rights of children in the custody of the federal government, including people seeking asylum. The FSA sets basic standards of care and prevents the United States from detaining children indefinitely in prison-like conditions. FWD.us President Todd Schulte issued the following statement:

“When the Trump Administration created its zero tolerance policy that was responsible for nearly 3,000 children being taken from their parents, they manufactured this awful crisis with the hope that if they weren’t able to continue that policy, that the American people would get distracted when they pursued their other plan: a change to the Flores Settlement Agreement to allow for the United States of America to jail children for years or months–truly indefinitely–with their parents.

“This proposed rule to essentially end the Flores Settlement Agreement is the continuation of the Trump Administration’s awful zero tolerance policy, plain and simple. We have been public since this crisis began in May that this effort to allow for the indefinite detention of children, with their parents, was always the plan. Here are the reasons why this proposed rule is a terrible step in the wrong direction:

  • As Americans, we should all be able to agree on some basic human rights: children should not be ripped from their parents’ arms simply because the government wants to be cruel, nor should children and families be thrown into jail indefinitely while fleeing extreme violence, instability, and poverty.
  • Children seeking a safe haven from unsafe, uninhabitable conditions deserve both due process and compassion. Jailing children for long periods of time as the status quo has been abandoned for a long time and for very good reason; this is an effort to put probably tens of thousands of children behind bars for years or months.
  • The Trump Administration’s proposed rule changes violate the spirit of the Flores Settlement Agreement to ensure the well-being of immigrant children and to place them in the least restrictive settings possible while they await their day in court. The federal government should not weaken the standards of care of these children nor seek to detain them indefinitely pending their court hearings.
  • Eliminating basic state licensing requirements for family detention facilities in favor of self-licensing is a step toward dismantling established protections for children in custody. Without accountability standards, there is no way to ensure conditions of care would meet current minimum standards for keeping children safe.
  • All legitimate requests by immigrants seeking to stay in the United States should be fully adjudicated, fairly and as swiftly as possible, and whenever possible use the least restrictive means of court supervision for children and families as they await their court hearings, ensuring the integrity of our immigration system is upheld.
  • In its own words, ‘DHS acknowledges that this rule may result in additional or longer detention for certain minors, DHS is unsure how many individuals will be detained at FRCs [Family Residential Centers] after this rule is effective or for how much longer individuals may be detained because there are so many other variables to consider. Therefore, DHS is unable to provide a quantified estimate of any increased FRC costs. DHS is also unable to provide an estimate of the cost of any increased detention on the individuals being detained.’ This level of uncertainty is unacceptable and will only create additional chaos within our immigration system.

“With this NPRM the federal government is asking for the public’s trust to to ensure the safety and wellbeing of immigrant children in its custody, with minimal oversight and little understanding of the long-term costs and needs. Based on recent history, it is not deserving of that trust. FWD.us will continue to oppose policies that expand unnecessary and arbitrary incarceration for citizens and non-citizens that provide no public safety benefit, and undermine the promise of who we can and should be.

“So what comes next? We are calling on the public to again make their voices clear: The comment period for this NPRM will be open for 60 days. We strongly encourage all concerned individuals to submit a comment and make certain your voice is heard.”

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