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Breaking fence

Project Reunify

The national movement to reunify thousands of refugee children separated from their loved ones.

The Center For Human Rights and Constitutional Law

The Center is a non-profit, public interest legal foundation dedicated to furthering and protecting the civil, constitutional, and human rights of immigrants, refugees, children, prisoners, and the poor.

The Center has served as class counsel for all detained minors for over twenty-five years in the Flores v. Garland case. Over one million immigrant minors have been promptly released from federal custody to relatives living in the US as a result of the Center’s 1997 Flores settlement with the government.

Since its incorporation in 1980, under the leadership of a board of directors comprising civil rights attorneys, community advocates and religious leaders, the Center has provided a wide range of legal services to vulnerable low-income victims of human and civil rights violations and technical support and training to hundreds of legal aid attorneys and paralegals in the areas of immigration law, constitutional law, and complex class action litigation.

The Center has achieved major victories in numerous significant cases in the courts of the United States and before international bodies that have directly benefited hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged persons.

The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.

—  Franklin D. Roosevelt


Why Do We Have Unique Access?

On July 11, 1985, the Center filed Flores v. Meese, a class action lawsuit against the US Attorney General on behalf of several minors, including 15 year old Jenny Lisette Flores, alleging that the government's detention policies were in violation of the Due Process Clause and Equal Protections Clause of the United States Constitution.

Jenny Flores was arrested in San Ysidro, California while fleeing the Salvadoran Civil war where civilians were being targeted and terrorized. She was moved to Pasadena where she was repeatedly strip-searched and held for two months among unknown adults.

This litigation process led to the 1993 Supreme Court ruling Reno v. Flores (507 US 292) and then the subsequent Flores v. Reno Settlement Agreement on January 28, 1997 after a four-year battle over sub-par detention standards.

Flores Settlement

The 1997 Flores Agreement gives the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law the right to access any detention center holding minors and conduct interviews. These interviews are a critical part of the ongoing battle for detained minors' rights—and are needed now more than ever.

Plaintiff's counsel are entitled to attorney-client visits with class members even though they may not have the names of class members who are housed at a particular location.

Flores Agreement, XI 32. A.

In addition to the attorney-client visits permitted pursuant to Paragraph 32, Plaintiff's counsel may request access to any licensed program's facility in which a minor has been placed pursuant to Paragraph 19 or to any medium security facility or detention center in which a minor has been placed pursuant to Paragraphs 21 or 23.

Flores Agreement, XII 33.

Current Status of The Flores Agreement

In response to President Trump's Executive Order 13841, “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation,” 83 FR 29435, issued June 20, 2018, the Department of Justice submitted an application in federal court in Los Angeles to strip away the option of immigrant children to early release and to be held in licensed facilities under the 1997 Flores settlement. The Court denied the application.

In 2019, the Trump administration issued final regulations regarding the conditions of detention of minors and again sought to terminate the 1997 Flores settlement. The Court blocked implementation of the final regulations and again rejected the administration's effort to terminate the 1997 Flores settlement.

In 2020-2021 the Court issued several orders to protect detained minors from the risks of COVID-19 and requiring the prompt release of detained minors to their family members residing in the U.S.

In 2022 the Court approved a settlement requiring that the U.S. Border Patrol in the Rio Grande and El Paso Sectors not separate children from their parents or legal guardians unless, on rare occasions, there is a perceived risk of harm to the child, requires CBP to provide a multilayered medical system for children and families in custody, requires the provision of age-appropriate meals and snacks that meet minors' daily nutritional needs, requires the designation of specific facilities in each sector to house and process unaccompanied minors and families, requires the appointment of an independent Juvenile Care Monitor who is charged with conducting independent assessments of custodial conditions for children held in CBP facilities in the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso sectors.

In 2022 the Court also approved a settlement requiring that the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) release class members detained at Emergency Intake Sites (EISs) to qualified custodians without unnecessary delay, place all minors in a licensed program as expeditiously as possible, transfer particularly vulnerable children out of the Fort Bliss EIS and the Pecos EIS, adopt mandatory standards to ensure that EISs comply with the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s standards for influx care facilities, and provide class members with continuous case management.

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