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August 23, 2019

Statement of ABA President Judy Perry Martinez re: Changes to Flores Settlement Agreement

WASHINGTON, Aug. 23, 2019 – The American Bar Association strongly objects to the final rule issued today by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services that would reverse many of the vital protections that have been in place under the Flores Settlement Agreement for 22 years. The agreement sets out a nationwide policy for the detention, treatment and release of minors in the custody of DHS and is based on the principle that minors in custody should be treated with dignity, respect and special concern for their unique needs.

As the new regulations acknowledge, many of the migrant children in government custody have endured a hazardous journey to the United States. Yet the final regulations authorize the indefinite detention of children held with their families in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities. Medical professionals and child welfare specialists have repeatedly warned of the detrimental physical, mental and emotional harm to children caused by even short periods of detention. 

Prolonged detention also impedes access to counsel, is costly to taxpayers and is not necessary to ensure that families attend immigration court hearings. One alternative to detention, the Family Case Management Program, was extremely effective, with compliance rates of 99% for ICE check-ins and 100% for court hearings.

We must address the immigration challenges facing the United States in a humane, fair and effective way that upholds the law and the values of our country. We strongly urge withdrawal of the new rules and development of policies that strengthen the framework of legal protections available for unaccompanied children, families and other vulnerable asylum-seekers.

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.