Rep. Dingell, advocates oppose Trump’s plan to detain migrant children indefinitely

New regulations skirt guidelines established by Flores Settlement

Advocates for immigrant rights are pushing back against proposed changes that would skirt rules established following the Flores Settlement. “The Trump administration has put forward another set of proposed rulemaking that would move to replace family separation with family incarceration in an unacceptable bid to jail children indefinitely and subject them to abuse,” Said Rep. Debbie Dingell. “We are Americans. We can’t stand for this.”

Click here to listen to Rep. Dingell’s statement on the separation of families.

In 1997, a federal court released a decision in the case of Flores v. Reno that required children be reunited with their family members without delay, protecting them from being indefinitely held in detention. Currently, under the court issued Flores Settlement, children cannot be held in detention for longer than 20 days. The decision also outlined specific guidelines for children in government custody ensuring that they were held in the “least restrictive conditions” possible and provided due process.

However, the Trump administration is using the federal regulation process to propose new standards for children in detention. These standards, as outlined by the government, could lead to children being jailed indefinitely and under dangerous and inhumane conditions. Additionally, the rule proposed to make it more difficult for children to be reunited with their parents or relatives.

The rules established following the Flores Settlement had not been a subject of controversy until the Trump administration directed Customs and Border Patrol to separate families in order to deter them from seeking asylum in the US. “Administrations from both sides of the aisle had supported it because it was the right thing to do,” said Oscar Castaneda, an immigrant rights organizer with Action Lansing. “We are speaking about real families and children here. I see them every single day and I see and feel their pain.”

Click here to listen to Oscar Castaneda’s statement on the history of the Flores settlement.

Dr. Kay McGowan is a Cultural Anthropologist at Eastern Michigan University. She is also a member of the Native American Choctaw Nation. She points out that many of the families that are being separated at the border are indigenous peoples of Central America trying to escape violence in the region. Sadly, they are fleeing to a nation with a long history of separating families through slavery of African Americans and the forced indoctrination of native children in boarding schools. “The United States should not be in the business of creating ‘Family Jails’ nor should children ever be held in detention and treated as criminals,” said Dr. McGowan. “We need an end to the detention of those seeking asylum as refugees and an end, not an extension, of child imprisonment.”

Click here to listen to Dr. McGowan’s statement on the effect to indigenous peoples.

Rep. Dingell says she is among a group of US Representatives who have sent a letter to Health and Human Service Sec. Alex Azar and Homeland Security Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen to withdraw the proposed regulations and instead re-establish a family case management program.