The International Rescue Committee (IRC) responds today to the United States’ proposed departure from the Flores Settlement, a landmark 1997 agreement which established minimum standards for the care, custody, and release of all children in immigration detention. 

The Flores Settlement Agreement was reached following over a decade of litigation brought by children from Central America against the U.S. government in response to their prolonged detention and mistreatment in federal custody in the 1980s.

Jenn Piatt, Senior Director, Refugee Resettlement and Asylum Policy and Advocacy at the International Rescue Committee:

“At a time when the administration has argued children do not even deserve a toothbrush, it seeks to undermine the minimum protections in Flores. A departure from Flores will only exacerbate the dangerous conditions in detention centers revealed recently by the HHS Inspector General, further subject children to inhumane treatment, and possibly subject children to indefinite detention. Seeking asylum is legal, and nobody – least of all children – should be punished for doing so.

“The administration needs a history lesson. Flores was put into place because the government routinely demonstrated that it was incapable of treating children in civil immigration detention even remotely well. For decades in America, immigrant children were subjected to prolonged detention with unrelated adults and criminal offenders, simply for seeking safety. Further, these children were subject to sexually-invasive strip searches, denied basic food and water, and had inadequate access to educational services – all while languishing in detention for years in many cases.

“This rule does not uphold the spirit of Flores and should be swiftly challenged. Based on comments by DHS this morning, it appears the administration already knows this and instead of working to improve conditions for children, the administration seeks to move ahead with policies that are legally insufficient and would not protect children.”