Women’s Refugee Commission Condemns the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Proposed Regulations to the Flores Settlement

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Washington, D.C.— Today, the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) condemned the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) proposed regulations to the Flores Settlement.

The proposed regulations released today relate to the apprehension, processing, care, custody, and release of immigrant juveniles. The proposed rules would set up a self-licensing scheme for federal immigration detention facilities to jail children alone or with their parents in facilities that fail to meet the current minimum standards for keeping children safe.

The Flores Settlement was established in 1997 as a result of litigation concerning the mistreatment of children in government custody. The settlement lays out basic safeguards for children in immigration custody 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 not possible, to hold children in the least restrictive setting possible. Prior to the Flores settlement, children were held in punitive, jail-like settings, alongside unknown adults for lengthy periods of time. The Flores Settlement sought to ensure the appropriate treatment of children and provide a minimum baseline for such treatment.

Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at WRC, made the following statement:

“These draft regulations are an attempt to gut basic standards on conditions for detaining children in the federal government’s custody, which include the provision of water and meals, among others. Upon the establishment of the Flores Settlement, the government has continually failed to meet the standards outlined in the agreement. Now it wants to drop the bar even lower.

“The Trump administration has been whittling away at the basic rights of women and children since they came into office. Efforts to weaken or eliminate basic child protection standards by calling them loopholes and eliminating their obligations for the basic care of children is just another example of this administration’s abdication of human rights. It is clear that this administration is incapable of holding themselves accountable. We will review these regulations closely to advocate for the protection of these fundamental rights.”