Washington, DC (August 23, 2019)—The Trump administration has published a final rule that lays the groundwork for the indefinite incarceration of immigrant children and families, and undermines basic protections for their health and well-being. The regulation seeks to end the longstanding Flores settlement agreement, which requires the Federal government maintain minimum standards in detention—such as providing basic necessities like food, water, and access to medical care—and which effectively limits the detention of children to 20 days.
The Trump administration’s rule is a gross violation of our responsibility, as a nation, to protect children and families. Research has consistently shown immigration detention harms children’s health and well-being. Studies of detained immigrant children have found high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety, and child psychologists and pediatricians agree that “even brief detention can cause psychological trauma and induce long-term mental health risks for children.” In 2016, the Department of Homeland Security’s own Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers concluded that “detention is generally neither appropriate nor necessary for families—and that detention or the separation of families for purposes of immigration enforcement or management are never in the best interest of children.”
This rule is just one part of this Administration’s larger and fundamentally racist immigration agenda aimed at excluding immigrants of color from the United States and isolating and terrorizing immigrant children, families, and communities within the United States.
“No child who crosses the border seeking protection in this country should be incarcerated. This heinous rule will only worsen horrifying conditions in immigration detention—conditions that no child or family should ever experience,” said Megan Martin, Vice President for Public Policy at the Center for the Study of Social Policy.
Another path is possible. Alternatives to detention such as community-based case management programs have proven effective at both supporting family’s well-being and helping them appear for their immigration proceedings. Instead of traumatizing immigrant children and families, we must work harder and with conviction, as a nation, to protect and promote their safety and well-being.