ABA rejects proposed changes for detained immigrant children

On Nov. 6, American Bar Association President Bob Carlson sent a letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement opposing proposed changes to the Flores settlement agreement. The settlement restricts how long children can be held in immigration detention and sets minimum standards for their care while in custody. 

“The proposed regulations would essentially authorize the indefinite detention of children and codify the practice of family separation,” Carlson wrote. “As such, they are antithetical to the purpose of the FSA,” or Flores Settlement Agreement.

Carlson also said that wording of the proposed regulations suggest that the Flores settlement has forced the government to either separate immigrant children from their parents or expand family detention. “The ABA strongly disagrees that those are the only options available or that they are acceptable options at all,” Carlson wrote.

Cost-effective and humane alternatives include family case management that ensures that families appear for their immigration court hearings, he said.

“We must address the immigration challenges facing the United States by means that are humane, fair and effective – and that uphold the law and our values as a country,” Carlson wrote. He urged the government to withdraw the proposed rules and “instead work toward strengthening the framework of legal protections available for unaccompanied children, families and other vulnerable asylum-seekers.”

The 1997 settlement in Flores v. Reno arose from a 1985 class-action lawsuit filed against the federal government, challenging policies for detaining unaccompanied immigrant children.

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