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Women's Refugee Commission Expresses Serious Concerns in Anticipation Over Finalized Flores Regulations

Washington, D.C. – Earlier today, the Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan, announced at a press conference that the finalized regulations to the Flores Settlement Agreement (FSA) will be officially published on Friday, August 23rd.

The FSA was established in 1997 as a result of litigation concerning the mistreatment of children in government immigration custody. The settlement lays out basic safeguards for these children, recognizes that detention is harmful to children, and makes clear that children should be placed in community settings. The settlement stated that the government should seek to release children without delay to a vetted sponsor, and if that is not possible, to hold children in the least restrictive setting possible. Prior to the FSA, children were held in punitive, jail-like settings, alongside unknown adults, for lengthy periods of time. The FSA sought to ensure the appropriate treatment of children and provide a minimum baseline for such treatment.

Last year, the administration released proposed regulations that purported to implement the “relevant and substantive terms” of the FSA. WRC and thousands of others condemned the proposed regulations and submitted lengthy comments detailing our concerns.

In response to today’s latest White House action against migrant and asylum-seeking families, the Women’s Refugee Commission’s Senior Director for Migrant Rights and Justice Michelle Brané issued the following statement:

“This administration’s inhumanity knows no bounds – they will even target children. We are watching as children are dying while in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and yet the White House doubles down on its abhorrent policies. If past is prologue, today’s announcement by McAleenan is a harbinger of nothing good to come.

“Just last week, the Ninth Circuit ruled, as a part of ongoing Flores implementation litigation, that the ‘safe and sanitary conditions’ provision in the FSA meant that the administration has to provide children in its custody with toothbrushes and soap, something it argued against doing. Toothbrushes and soap.

“McAleenan today also stated that, under these new regulations, families with children will be detained together indefinitely during the course of their immigration proceedings. Our research – and experts around the world, including the American Academy of Pediatrics – have stated in no uncertain terms that detention, especially family detention, even if only for short periods of time, is harmful to children. Indeed, the negative effects on children may be lifelong. This administration is choosing to ignore basic child welfare protections and, in doing so, is intentionally harming children.”