AILA Quicktake #275: New DHS Regulation Eliminates Protections for Children and Families

On 8/23/19, DHS issued a regulation that would reverse the protections of the Flores Settlement Agreement, which is a decades-old court settlement put in place to ensure the safety and proper care of minors in immigration detention. Katy Murdza, Dilley Pro Bono Project’s Advocacy Manager, discusses how this new regulation will impact children and families in government custody.


Video Transcript

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Last week, the Department of Homeland Security issued a regulation
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that would reverse the protections of the decades-old Flores Settlement Agreement,
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which was created to ensure the safety and well-being of children in immigration detention.
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As it stands, the Flores Settlement requires the government to release children
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in its custody as quickly as possible, generally within 20 days.
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The new rule will terminate this agreement,
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allowing the indefinite detention of children and families.
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Furthermore, the facilities that detain these children and families would no longer
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need a license from state agencies with expertise in child welfare,
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meaning that the immigration agencies will set standards for the very facilities
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they are operating, without any external oversight.
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This change is especially concerning because DHS has repeatedly shown
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its inability to to maintain conditions that protect those in its custody.
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As shown by recent reports of child deaths, overcrowding,
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and inadequate medical care,
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the Dilley Pro Bono Project, a site of the Immigration Justice Campaign,
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already sees the disturbing consequences of family detention every day.
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Mothers reports delays and denial of medical care,
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gaps in prescription medication, and failure to accommodate medical diets.
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No specialists including OBGYNs are on-site in Dilley,
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despite the detention of people with medical conditions and pregnant women.
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Children’s mental health quickly deteriorates,
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and many refuse to eat or regress to behaviors that they have previously outgrown.
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Detention prevents families from accessing the evidence, witnesses,
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and attorneys they need to have a fair chance at fighting their asylum claim.
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These problems occur when families are detained for just a few weeks,
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but are much worse when families are detained for months.
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We saw this first hand last year, when 37 mothers and their children
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who had been separated by the Trump administration
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were later reunifed and brought to Dilley for four months.
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Before the rule goes into effect in October 22nd, 2019,
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Federal Judge Dolly Gee will hear arguments on whether the new rule
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meets the terms of the original settlement.
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Other challenges to this rule are expected since the new regulations
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differ so much from the original agreement
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and arguably completely undermine both its terms and spirit.
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If this rule goes into effect it will funnel billions in taxpayer dollars
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into private prisons in order to jail children and families
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despite the existence of more effective and humane alternatives.
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Data shows that alternatives to detention
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like the DHS Family Case Management Program
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have a near perfect, 99 percent, appearance rate
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and are more cost-efficient than detention.
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Rather than attempting to detain families for longer periods of time
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the government should invest in alternatives to detention,
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and do everything in its power to ensure the safety and well-being
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of children under its custody.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 19083010.