Sign On Request in Support of Unaccompanied Minors
Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law
Class Counsel for detained immigrant minors in Flores v. Barr (12/10/2020)
WHEREAS, on January 28, 1997, the United States District Court for the Central District of California approved a nationwide Settlement Agreement in the class action case of Flores v. Barr, CV-85-4544 DMG (AGRx), setting humane and compassionate national standards for the housing, detention, and release of children detained by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR); and
WHEREAS, to this day the court in the Flores case continues to issue Orders at Plaintiffs’ request requiring that the federal Government fully comply with the basic rights detained children have under the Flores Settlement Agreement; and
WHEREAS, in 2014, without seeking amendment of the Flores Settlement Agreement before the District Court, ICE unilaterally commenced breaching the Settlement Agreement by adopting a “no release” policy aimed solely at children apprehended with their mothers in order to “deter” future unknown family units from seeking to enter the U.S.; and
WHEREAS, during the Trump administration, despite numerous court Orders issued to require the federal Government’s compliance with the Flores Settlement Agreement, tens of thousands of accompanied and unaccompanied immigrant children have been detained for long periods of time even though they are neither a flight risk nor a danger to themselves or others; and
WHEREAS, in April 2018, the Trump administration initiated a policy of forcibly separating children from their parents in order to criminally prosecute the parents, a practice ended soon after it was initiated but to this day leaving over 540 children still separated from their parents; and
WHEREAS, under the Trump administration the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has from time to time detained children in overcrowded cages in unsafe, unhealthy, and unsanitary conditions largely because the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) consistently failed to timely release children leaving it with little capacity to receive unaccompanied minors backed up in CBP custody; and
WHEREAS, the Trump administration now has an appeal pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to terminate the protections detained children have under the Flores Settlement Agreement; and
WHEREAS, the vast majority of detained immigrant children could be promptly and safely released to family members, or responsible faith-based sponsors, or licensed group; and
WHEREAS, the Trump Administration is deporting apprehended minors and minors who present themselves at ports of entry without assessing their eligibility for political asylum or Special Immigrant Juvenile Status available to minors who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE UNDERSIGNED that:
1. The President of the United States has broad authority to adopt policies regarding the treatment and release of apprehended immigrant children consistent with existing federal statutes without the need for new federal legislation or even executive orders.
2. The nationwide Settlement Agreement approved by the United States District Court for the Central District of California on January 28, 1997 in the case of Flores v. Barr, Cv. Case No. CV CV-85-4544 DMG (AGRx) (“Flores Settlement Agreement”) provides basic human rights protections for detained immigrant children by setting forth the national standards for the housing, detention, and release of accompanied and unaccompanied children detained by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
3. The Trump administration currently has several appeals pending from Orders issued by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in 2020 to protect immigrant children during the COVID-19 pandemic and enforce the terms of the Flores Settlement Agreement. In order to protect the dignity, safety, and well-being of detained immigrant children, the incoming Biden administration should promptly dismiss these pending appeals.
4. In 2019 in order to override and terminate the protections offered detained children by the Flores Settlement Agreement, the Trump administration issued national regulations for the detention of thousands of immigrant children. These regulations were blocked by the Flores Court in December 2019, but the Trump administration has appealed that decision. The regulations should be promptly withdrawn and the appeal dismissed by the incoming Biden administration.
5. The incoming Biden administration should adopt a policy to promptly, and in no more than seven (7) days, release detained accompanied children with their accompanying parents unless the children or their parents are a significant flight risk or a danger to themselves or others.
6. The incoming Biden administration should adopt a policy to promptly and in more than twenty (20) days release detained unaccompanied children to available sponsors unless the children are a significant flight risk or a danger to themselves or others, or the sponsors are unable to safely care for the child.
7. The incoming Biden administration should adopt a policy to promptly identify immigrant children who were forcibly separated from their parents in 2018 by the Trump administration and locate and reunite them with their parents. Parents who were deported should be “paroled” into the United States so they may assist in locating and reuniting with their children.
8. The incoming Biden administration should adopt a policy to assess whether apprehended minors and minors who present themselves at ports of entry are eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile status (SIJ status) because they have been abused, abandoned, or neglected, or for asylum, and not remove them if they appear to be prima facie eligible for SIJ status or asylum and provide them with assistance to apply for any relief from deportation for which they are eligible under existing federal laws.
9. The incoming Biden administration should provide unaccompanied minors in removal (deportation) proceedings with court-appointed legal representation at no cost to the minors.
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