7 Things to Know About the Flores Settlement Agreement

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1. What is the Flores Settlement Agreement?

Quick Takeaway: The Flores Settlement is an agreement put in place to protect children taken into custody at our southern border.

In 1997, concluding a class-action lawsuit first introduced in 1985, the federal government reached a settlement with child welfare and legal advocates addressing widespread child welfare violations within the immigration detention system. As a result of the case, a new set of child-welfare standards was agreed upon – including a key clause that dictates that the government cannot detain families for longer than a 20 day period – and these regulations continue to provide some measure of protection for children in detention today.

2. Why is it in the News?

Quick Takeaway: The Administration is seeking to overturn the protections outlined in Flores.

Following the announcement of the “Zero-Tolerance” policy and the subsequent executive order to “end family separation,” the Administration is looking to overturn the Flores Settlement, which maintains a number of essential legal protections for immigrant children and families in the custody of the U.S. government.

The settlement binds the government to adhere to a number of minimum standards in their treatment and processing of children – and, in the context of a more aggressive approach to immigration enforcement, the Administration is finding these standards inconvenient and unwieldy. The economic and bureaucratic demands could be minimized through the use of Alternatives to Detention – which presents a more humane path for families navigating the legal immigration system– but the Administration is, instead, keeping with its hardline stance on immigration and attacking the regulations laid out by Flores by issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

3. If the Flores settlement is overturned, what would that mean for children and families?

Quick Takeaway: Overturning Flores would undercut the rights of children and families in detention.

By seeking to overturn Flores, the government hopes to eliminate protections and regulations that govern the way they are required to treat children and families in detention. As a result, children and families would lose standard rights within the immigration system, with this particular proposal threatening to impact everything from the length of stay in a detention facility, the conditions of the facility, the options for release, a person’s right to a bond hearing, the legal protections for unaccompanied children and more.

4. Would overturning Flores enable indefinite detention of children and families?

Quick Takeaway: Yes, the Administration’s proposal seeks to abolish limitations on the length officials can detain children and families.

One of the key protections afforded to children by the Flores settlement is the assertion that the U.S. government could not hold children with their families in secure facilities for more than 20 days. The administration’s new proposal pushes to overturn this limitation and would enable the government to detain families and children indefinitely while their immigration cases move through the system – a bureaucratic process that can take months and even years.

LIRS is opposed to any form of detention of children and families – and vehemently opposed to the indefinite detention, which poses a clear violation of human dignity and due process.

5. Would the Trump Administration’s proposal change where kids are detained?

Quick Takeaway: The proposal would enable ICE to detain kids in a wider range of facilities – with less accountability to the conditions of the detention centers.

The Flores settlement asserts that the government can only detain children and families in licensed facilities that meet certain baseline standards – proper food, clothing, medical and emergency care, educational and mental health services, and recreational activities.

The Administration’s new proposal would sidestep these regulations by enabling ICE to self-license and inspect facilities – removing the crucial element of accountability, enabling ICE to detain children in a wider range of facilities, and lowering the stakes for detention facilities that are unable to meet standards for child welfare.

6. What is LIRS doing about it?

Quick Takeaway: LIRS has and will continue to advocate against changes to Flores.

When news of the Administration’s latest push to overturn Flores emerged, LIRS responded quickly and definitively with an opposition statement. We are watching the proceedings around this issue carefully and will continue to advocate for the protection of the children we serve whenever we can be strategically effective.

7. What can I do to help?

You can help spread the word on this issue by sharing this blog post and following us on social media. LIRS regularly posts to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

To keep up-to-date with LIRS and follow issues relating to Flores and child welfare, sign up for our email list here.

You can also support our advocacy efforts by making a donation today! Even small donations can go a long way to support grassroots advocacy.

2 thoughts on “7 Things to Know About the Flores Settlement Agreement”

  1. This was extremely helpful and informative, and I will certainly forward this message as the Co-chair of the Immigrant Action Team at Temple Beth El, Madison, WI and will write a statement in opposition. As a retired psychologist, I am also deeply troubled by the potential impact on children and families of overturning Flores.

    • Erica, It’s very heartening to know that we are not alone in advocating on behalf of children and families on this vital issue. LIRS is also working with mental health care providers as we speak to provide therapeutic support to recently reunited families and children dealing with the aftermath of detention and separation. Thanks for your support!

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