The Proposed Flores Regulations Must Not Be Finalized

This past summer, The Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy ripped apart immigrant families at the border, shocking America with its cruelty. The administration is now proposing another inhumane practice—jailing immigrant families and children together for indefinite periods of time while their immigration cases are processed. This is not a solution to family separation!

For over 20 years, a settlement agreement (“Flores”) has ensured key safeguards are put in place to ensure the health and safety of immigrant children held in government custody. Recently proposed regulations would  dismantle the current  standards and allow for the indefinite detention of immigrant children and families, including asylum seekers. Additionally, it makes it more difficult for children to be released from government custody. The increased and prolonged detention of children and families is inhumane, expensive, and contrary to the purpose and spirit of the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement.

Children do not belong behind bars. Replacing family separation with family incarceration will only subject children to more trauma and abuse. You can stop this regulation from becoming finalized. Submit your comment by November 6, 2018.

The administration must read and respond to each unique comment, so it is important to write the comment in your own words. Here are some examples:

  • I am concerned that the proposed rule is contrary to the purpose and spirit of the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement which sought to ensure that all children in the government’s custody are “treated with dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors.” I must oppose the government’s proposal to discard the Flores Settlement Agreement safeguards, which protects the welfare of migrant children in U.S. government custody, in favor of dangerously broad criteria that allow indefinite detention, fewer legal protections, and questionable standards of care and oversight. Children and families belong together and free from detention.
  • Children do not belong behind bars. Replacing family separation with family incarceration will only subject children to more trauma and abuse.
  • Detention, even for a short amount of time, has been proven to be devastating to a child’s development, health, and well-being. This proposed rule permitting indefinite detention is abusive and inhumane. The Flores settlement was put in place to ensure children are treated with “dignity, respect and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors.” The proposed rule fails to meet those standards. Instead, they undermine existing child protections.
  • The regulations themselves cite family detention as an “effective enforcement tool” — a clear admission that the Administration is focused not on protecting the basic safety and health of children under Flores but on carrying out draconian punishments on asylum-seeking families.
  • The proposed rule is an unnecessary burden on taxpayers. There are proven, effective alternatives to detention, such as the Family Case Management System. It is less harmful to a developing child and more cost effective. The proposed rule is a needless cost and a poor and wasteful use of resources.
  • The number one priority of the Flores Settlement Agreement is that children not be incarcerated. This foundational principle, which the government agreed to in the settlement, recognizes that the best way to ensure a child’s well-being is to keep them out of jail. The Administration is attempting to dismantle the Flores standards of protection that have been in place for decades. The proposed regulations allow DHS to jail children indefinitely while DHS “self-certifies” that the jails are safe for children. This agency that cannot be trusted, as time and time again DHS has proved itself unable or unwilling to ensure the basic safety and health of people it jails.
  • DHS’s own advisory committee, convened to inform the agency how to improve family detention, found as its top recommendation that DHS should discontinue the practice, and that “detention is generally neither appropriate nor necessary for families – and that detention the separation of families for purposes of immigration enforcement or management are never in the best interest of children.”

As you draft your comment, consider:

  • How would this regulation impact you, your family/friends, business, and neighborhood?
  • Do you have expertise in an area that touches on these proposed regulations?
    • Legal, Trauma, Advocacy, Medicine, Knowledge of country conditions that asylees are fleeing; Working with asylum seekers
  • What is your opinion of asylum-seekers (characteristics and their experiences)? What do you admire or value about them?
  • What do you think about the practice of incarcerating children and families?
  • What elements of the regulation do you feel are unjust, unfair, cruel, illegal, and/or problematic?
  • What, in your opinion, are other options do you see as feasible and workable solutions to managing asylum applicants?
    • Releasing to family and/or community-based settings, as we’ve historically done.
    • Providing families with legal counsel, which increases their likelihood of attending court dates to 96%.
    • Implementing a community-based monitoring system to ensure families can complete the legal process.
  • How does this proposed regulation violate our values as a nation, or your values (faith, ethnic, generational, etc.)

The comment period closes in:

The comment period is now closed. Thank you to those of you who submitted a comment!

If you did not have an opportunity to submit a comment, please consider submitting a comment for other proposed regulations, which are also harmful to immigrants.

This page will remain up as an archive. 11/7/2018.

How to Write Your Comment

The administration must read and respond to each unique comment, so it is important to personalize your comment. Here are some additional tips for your comment:

  1. Comment must be in English
  2. Clearly state “the entire proposed regulation should not be finalized”
  3. Do NOT suggest corrective language (or they’ll assume you agree with rest of language)
  4. Speak from your own knowledge and experience
  5. Pro tip: attach your resume or evidence to bolster your comment (see below for resources)

You may choose to use a template, but please add to the pre-prepared comment, as unique comments cannot be ignored!

Examples to Cite in Your Comment

  • The proposed regulations do not comply with the Flores Settlement Agreement and would result in increased detention time for more children.
  • Detention has been documented to harm the physical and mental health of immigrant children. Furthermore, even short stays in detention can have long-lasting, harmful effects.
  • DHS Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers recommends the discontinuation of family detention, saying that “detention . . . of families for purposes of immigration enforcement or management are never in the best interest of children.”
  • Detention is a deterrent to legal representation: in Houston, only 13% of detained respondents had counsel, compared to 69% of those not detained. Legal representation is to key to winning a case, as seen in a 2017 study showing that with representation, grant rates soared to 48% from 4%.
  • The cost to taxpayers of the proposed regulation is too high – estimates place the annual cost of anywhere from $201 million to just under $1.3 billion per year.
  • The detention of children and families is not worth the high economic, social, and ethical cost, given that alternatives to detention are effective at assuring compliance with court hearings and orders.
  • The regulations would limit release to a parent or legal guardian for accompanied children in DHS custody causing more children to languish alone in detention centers instead of under the care of their relatives.
  • The proposed regulation would heighten standards on release for parole for children in expedited removal proceedings, further removing protections to minors ensconced in law and upheld by Judge Gee.
  • The proposed regulations make it easier to revoke the legal protections for unaccompanied children through continual re-determination of unaccompanied child status.
  • The regulations would authorize DHS to re-detain children without any burden of proving change in circumstances, undermining Saravia v. Sessions.