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June 25, 2019

Statement of ABA President Bob Carlson, re: Detention of immigrant children in poor conditions

WASHINGTON, June 25, 2019 – The American Bar Association is appalled by credible reports of hundreds of children being held in unsafe and unhealthy conditions in violation of federal and state law, court settlements and common decency.

This week, the American public learned that children, including infants, were being held for up to weeks at a time in overcrowded federal facilities that lack the most basic of human necessities. The law requires that children who are held must be transferred to the custody of Health and Human Services within 72 hours.

The U.S. Department of Justice has argued that bedding, soap, showers and toothbrushes are not necessary to maintain “safe and sanitary” conditions for immigrant children in federal custody, which are required by the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement, which restricts the time children can be held in immigration detention and sets minimum standards for their care while in custody.

The ABA calls on federal authorities to immediately end this inhumane and illegal treatment of children and provide attorney access to facilities operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. We urge Congress to pass supplemental appropriations to ensure the appropriate treatment and care of unaccompanied immigrant children in government custody. And we call on the administration to enforce laws and settlements that guarantee humane, minimal standards of care for vulnerable children, no matter how they arrived in our country.


With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on Twitter @ABANews.

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