SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today led a coalition of attorneys general in filing an amicus brief to defend the human rights of children in civil immigration 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. However, under the Trump Administration, immigrant children have been held for weeks in inhumane conditions without access to basic necessities like soap, clean water, toothbrushes, showers, or a place to sleep.
“All children deserve to be treated with care and compassion, certainly with dignity and respect,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Yet, with each passing day, the Trump Administration heartlessly robs children, infants, and even expecting mothers of access to basic human rights. Can you be more un-American? Together, we’re standing up to this administration that uses our nation’s highest office to bully the most vulnerable among us.”
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.
However, CBP is blatantly failing to comply 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. In addition, CBP dangerously and irresponsibly tasks children 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 blatant 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 migrant children.
Today’s announcement builds on Attorney General Becerra’s commitment to protecting the human rights of people in California and around the country. Late last year, Attorney General Becerra led a coalition of 18 attorneys general to express significant concern to the Trump Administration about its proposed changes to the Flores Settlement Agreement. Earlier this year, Attorney General Becerra: led a lawsuit challenging President Trump’s illegal diversion of funds to construct a wall at the southern border; released a first-of-its-kind report on civil immigration detention facilities in California; led a multistate amicus brief challenging the Trump Administration’s “Turnback Policy;” and co-led a multistate effort before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to defend hundreds of thousands of people who hold Temporary Protected Status.
Joining Attorney General Becerra in filing the brief are the Attorneys General of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
A copy of the brief is available here.