Family separation and detention have been covered in the media for the past few months, but it’s important to mention that these two harmful things have been happening for years. Over the summer, the news cycle was covering how children have been kept in prison-like conditions in immigration facilities. This past September, the Trump Administration issued proposed administrative rules that would end the Flores Settlement Agreement. If you have heard about this agreement before, it’s because it provides important protections for migrant children. This agreement has been in place for many decades, and its main focus is to protect the rights of children when they are in the federal government’s custody, including those seeking asylum. The Flores Settlement Agreement (FSA) prevents children from being detained for an indefinite period of time, and sets standards for the facilities where children are detained.
The FSA was put in place during the Clinton administration after several lawsuits, with one in particular filed by the ACLU, National Center for Youth Law, Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law and others which highlighted the experience of Jenny Lisette Flores, a 15-year-old girl from El Salvador. In 1985, Jenny fled El Salvador to reunite with her aunt in the United States. She was arrested at the border and taken to a juvenile detention center. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), previously known as Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), did not grant custody to Jenny’s aunt. Throughout the 1980’s, INS was accused of mistreating immigrant children in detention, resulting in various lawsuits, including Jenny’s.
Although the FSA is still in effect, children at the border have been mistreated at DHS facilities across the country. The FSA allows us to hold agencies accountable and stop the mistreatment of migrant children. The agreement establishes a baseline of protection for children’s safety and health, and protects the particular needs of these children. The most important thing to know is this: The FSA is crucial for the well-being of children at a time when they are experiencing trauma and confusion. Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics and others shows that detention severely harms children, including causing health problems, long-term and sometimes generational mental health effects, a decline in school performance and poor sleep quality.
We should be improving the treatment of migrant children, not taking away even more protections. If you are outraged, the good news is that you can take action now and make your voice heard. We can help prevent children, who are trying to survive and live healthy and happy lives, from experiencing the trauma that stems from detention and family separation. Here’s how: we are nearing the end of the public comment period about the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed rule that would undermine the protections of the Flores Settlement Agreement. We urge you to submit a comment before the deadline on November 6th, 2018. By commenting, you’ll have the opportunity to state, in your own words, why you oppose the government’s proposal to wipe out the FSA. Click here to submit your comment. The more comments are submitted, the more this administration will be on notice that the public opposes their inhuman and punitive treatment of children and their families. This is immoral. Join us in this fight and submit a comment now!