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Attorney General William Tong

07/10/2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL TONG JOINS COALITION DEFENDING HUMAN RIGHTS OF IMMIGRANT CHILDREN IN CIVIL DETENTION

Attorney General William Tong today joined a coalition of attorneys general, led by California and Massachusetts, in filing an amicus brief to defend the human rights of immigrant children in civil detention in the United States.

In the brief filed with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the coalition urges the court to grant immediate relief to remedy the imminent threat to the health and welfare of immigrant children detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Under the Flores Settlement Agreement, children have the right to safe and sanitary conditions of detention and prompt release or placement at a state-licensed facility. Despite these clear rights, the Trump Administration has held immigrant children for weeks in inhumane conditions without access to basic necessities like soap, clean water, toothbrushes, showers, or a place to sleep.

"Since the President took office, there has been a national emergency in the Trump Administration's war on immigrants and immigrant families. I saw the cost of that war when I visited the U.S.-Mexico border in March. These children, who are fleeing violence and oppression, are being torn apart from their mothers and fathers and family members, and are being forced to live in deplorable conditions,” said Attorney General Tong. “This is inhumane and immoral. We need to do everything we can to ensure these children have unencumbered access to core supplies needed for survival. These traumatic conditions are likely to leave a lifelong imprint of harm on some of these children, including many of who will become citizens or legal residents of our country someday."

For more than two decades, the federal government has been required to meet minimum standards for the facilities in which children who are immigrants 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.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is failing to comply, however, 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. Young children are also irresponsibly and dangerously tasked 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 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 immigrant children.

In submitting the brief, Attorney General Tong joined the attorneys general of California, Massachusetts, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Joshua Perry, Special Counsel for Civil Rights, assisted the Attorney General with this matter.

A copy of the brief is available here.
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