RICHMOND (July 10, 2019) – Following reports of overcrowding, unsanitary and unsafe conditions, and even sexual assaults of children in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities, Attorney General Mark R. Herring and a coalition of attorneys general are fighting in court to protect the health, safety, and human rights of immigrant children in detention in the United States.
In an amicus brief filed with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues urge the court to grant immediate relief to remedy the imminent threat to the health and welfare of immigrant children detained by CBP. Under the Flores Settlement Agreement, a court order that has protected the health and safety of children in detention for more than twenty years, children have the right to safe and sanitary conditions of detention and prompt release or placement at a state-licensed facility. However, under the Trump Administration, immigrant children have been held for weeks in inhumane conditions without access to basic necessities like soap, clean water, toothbrushes, showers, or a place to sleep.
“The way children have been held in these disgusting, inhumane conditions at the border is reprehensible,” said Attorney General Herring. “We cannot stand by and allow the Trump Administration to continue to harm these children and ignore the protections granted to them. The way these children have been treated in these detention centers is not who we are as a country and it must be stopped.”
For more than two decades, the federal government has been required to meet minimum standards for the facilities in which immigrant children may be confined. These minimum standards, established in the Flores Settlement Agreement, require, among other things, that CBP facilities holding children following arrest must be safe and sanitary. They must also provide children with enumerated services, including access to toilets and sinks, drinking water and food, medical assistance, and adequate supervision.
However, CBP is blatantly failing to comply with its obligations under the court-monitored Flores Settlement Agreement. Children are being denied access to safe and sanitary conditions, clean drinking water, and medication. In addition, CBP dangerously and irresponsibly tasks children with the care of toddlers and infants. This treatment inflicts irreparable harm on children under CBP custody, where hospitalizations continue to occur. The federal government’s blatant disregard of its obligations under the Flores Settlement Agreement conflicts with federal statutory requirements that immigration authorities consider “the best interest of the child” when taking action with respect to unaccompanied migrant children.
Last fall, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services expressing significant concerns with their proposed regulations that would roll back protections for children held in immigrant detention facilities.
In submitting the brief, Attorney General Herring joined the Attorneys General of California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.