Her observation was echoed in an accompanying declaration by University of Pennsylvania professor Fernando Chang-Muy, who travelled throughout Honduras in May 2019 giving presentations to potential asylum seekers about the legal hurdles they might face in the United States.”Few to none of them are even aware of the existence of the Flores Settlement Agreement,” Chang-Muy wrote.President Donald Trump and other administration officials have long claimed the Flores Agreement is viewed as a loophole, allowing migrant adults to bring children with them to the U.S. because families cannot be detained at-length. The agreement calls for unaccompanied children to swiftly be placed with “sponsors” – typically relatives. A 2015 opinion by the judge overseeing the Agreement led to a so-called “20-day rule” limiting detainment of families. The final regulation announced by the government on August 21 would do away with those limits. It is scheduled to go into effect on October 22. Government officials have said they believe the move will deter would-be migrants. “With the Flores fix… We’re looking forward to seeing less and less family units coming across the border,” said U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli in a video posted to Twitter the day the regulation was announced.However, the government’s own data contradicts its assessment of the “20-day rule,” according to an analysis submitted Friday by University of California, San Diego political science professor Tom Wong. “The government’s claims about correlation obfuscate the fact that the 2015 Flores ruling came in the midst of an increasing trend of migrant family apprehensions,” Wong wrote. 

In the last year, immigration enforcement has contended with a surge of families and unaccompanied migrant children fleeing destitution and violence in Central America. In the government’s August 31 filing in the Flores case, Assistant Attorney General Joseph Hunt said changes in migration patterns mean it “is no longer possible, equitable, or in the public interest” to continue the Flores Agreement.That argument was refuted Friday by Susan Martin, Professor Emerita at Georgetown University, whose decades in immigration policy include publishing one of the first studies of unaccompanied refugee children, leading two Congressional commissions and writing the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ first guidelines on protection of refugee women.”I believe that US policymakers were aware of the irregular migration of accompanied children — not just unaccompanied children — when the original Flores Settlement Agreement was negotiated in 1997,” Martin wrote. She noted that at the time, “families were the preference” and future waves of migrants were anticipated:”The original Flores Settlement was not adopted in a vacuum. The federal government was well aware that children were arriving in the United States alone as well as with their family.”

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