As Trump seeks to change Flores settlement, Pennsylvania, other Democrat Attorney’s General states sue administration

As Trump seeks to change Flores settlement, Pennsylvania, other Democrat Attorney’s General states sue administration

Harrisburg, PA

Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced yesterday that he is filing a lawsuit with 19 other attorneys general opposing the Trump Administration’s new rule circumventing the Flores Settlement Agreement, which has governed the treatment of children in immigration custody since 1997. In the complaint before the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the coalition argues that the rule eliminates several critical protections guaranteed by the Flores Settlement Agreement. In particular, the prolonged detention risked by the rule would cause irreparable harm to children, their families, and the Pennsylvania communities that accept them upon their release from federal custody.

“The Flores Settlement is the law of the land, and it was established to protect children from the emotional and physical trauma caused by prolonged detention and separation,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “This is yet another brazen attempt by the Trump Administration to strip states of their power and loosen regulations and oversight on facilities detaining families and children. As Pennsylvania Attorney General, I will do everything in my power to protect the safety and well being of all children, and I am proud to stand with my colleague attorneys general in challenging the Administration’s attempt to roll back these critical protections.”

Shapiro did not state what interest the people of Pennsylvania have in this case. Flores essentially sets out how minors are to be handled. The regulation reform implemented by the Trump Administration is designed to keep families together while their cases are being decided.

In addition to Pennsylvania, the coalition included the attorneys general of California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin K. McAleenan on the DHS-HHS Federal Rule on Flores Agreement made the following statement on August 21, 2019:

 

The facilities that will be used to temporarily house families under this rule are, appropriately, fundamentally different than the facilities where migrants are processed following apprehension or encounter.  They are campus-like settings with appropriate medical, educational, recreational, dining, and private housing facilities.

For example, the first Family Residential Center in Berks, Pennsylvania, has suites where each family is housed separately.  Furniture, bedding, towels, basic clothing, and toiletries are provided.  There is a large community “living room” that has a big-screen television, large cushioned couches and lounge chairs, a gaming area and a separate library that contains books, smaller television sets, video games, and board games.  The facility also has an entire wing dedicated to classroom learning where minors at the facility go to school five days a week.  Another wing is a medical facility where minors and their parents receive any necessary medical care, including all immunizations required for later admission to U.S. public schools.  There are also phone banks to call relatives, consulates, or attorney/representatives.

In all FRCs, three hot meals a day are provided, and snacks are available throughout the day.  All three FRCs offer a variety of indoor and outdoor daily recreation activities for children and adults. Indoor activities offered include a variety of sports, group exercise classes, arts and crafts classes, movie nights, and seasonal and holiday-themed activities.  Outdoor recreational facilities include soccer fields, volleyball courts, and play structures.

The FRCs have video conferencing set up for court hearings and private meeting rooms so that families can meet with their attorneys or representatives.  Child care is provided to the parents while they meet with their attorneys/representatives or attend their court hearings.  Interpreting services are available 24 hours a day via telephone.  Attorneys and representatives approved to appear at immigration court hearings are provided access to the residents at various times each week, enabling families to obtain counsel and not have to appear at immigration hearings as pro se respondents.

 

About The Author

Don Shaw

Don Shaw journalist covering local news for The Pennsylvania Chronicle (717) 461-2107 don.shaw@pennsylvaniachronicle.com