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Federal District Court Denies Government’s Emergency Request to Terminate Legal Rights of Children

We serve as legal counsel for all detained immigrant children nationwide. Today, Federal District Court Judge Dolly M. Gee denied an emergency application brought by the Federal Government seeking to dismantle key provisions of the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement, finding the Government’s application to be both “procedurally improper and wholly without merit.” (Order available through this link). On June 20th, President Trump ordered the Department of Justice to submit an emergency request that the Court set aside the rights detained immigrant children have under the terms of this important nationwide settlement. The following day, the Attorney General filed an emergency request to the Court to cancel two key provisions of the 1997 Settlement. The Government asked the court to terminate’s its obligation to provide children the option of prompt release if they are not a flight risk or danger. It also asked the Court to end its obligation to hold non-released children in licensed facilities. (Government’s Application available through this link).

“Today’s ruling is a helpful reminder that while this Administration may engage in ‘tough talk’ and careless decision-making which in this case caused the forced separation of thousands of children from their parents with no plan on how or when to reunify them, there are legal constraints that prevent needlessly harming innocent children, even refugee children,” said Peter Schey, Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law and counsel for the detained children. “President Trump should target his ‘zero tolerance’ policy on those who are a threat to country’s safety and security, not on children fleeing persecution and seeking safe haven at our borders, as is their right under domestic and international law.”

As the Court noted, “[t]he parties voluntarily agreed to the terms of the Flores Agreement more than two decades ago. The Court did not force the parties into the agreement nor did it draft the contractual language. Its role is merely to interpret and enforce the clear and unambiguous language to which the parties agreed, applying well established principles of law. Regardless, what is certain is that the children who are the beneficiaries of the Flores Agreement’s protections and who are now in Defendants’ custody are blameless. They are subject to the decisions made by adults over whom they have no control. In implementing the Agreement, their best interests should be paramount.”

Our recently filed opposition to the Government’s emergency application is available through this link.

Our opposition was supported by the American Civil Liberties Union and the City of Los Angeles, the City of Chicago, the City of New York, and the City & County of San Francisco as amici curiae.

The Flores Settlement Agreement sets out the national standards for the care and placement of immigrant children in the custody of the federal Government. In defense of their “zero tolerance” immigration policy and separation of children from their parents, the Trump Administration has repeatedly asserted that the Flores settlement and the federal court’s interpretation of the settlement “forced” it to separate children and parents. Today’s Order makes clear, this is not true.

“The President has had his turn on the offensive against innocent children,” says Mr. Schey regarding Trump’s attacks on the Flores Settlement. “Until this Administration starts treating children with the decency and respect they deserve given their unique vulnerability as children, we will insure that the courts step in to bring normalcy and decency to the treatment of these vulnerable and powerless children. ”

CHRCL is working in collaboration with numerous organizations and volunteers to facilitate the reunification of separated children and parents, conduct ongoing monitoring efforts at all facilities where immigrant children are held, establish immediate telephonic communication between children and parents in cases where this has not taken place, restore parents’ decision-making over their children, and provide services to help parents already deported apply to return to the U.S. to be safely reunited with their children.

Learn more at

Support for this work may be provided at this link.

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