Attorneys on Friday struck back against a claim long made by the U.S. government that a landmark 1997 court settlement about the care of migrant children in custody has caused kids and families to flow north from Central America.
Their filing and accompanying declarations by immigration experts is the latest salvo over the Flores Agreement, which set standards for how unaccompanied migrant children and families with kids apprehended together must be sheltered by the government. In a previous filing in the case from August 31, the government claimed that immigration has changed in the 22 years since the Flores Agreement was first established. The government also claimed that the agreement itself led to an increase in children and families coming to the U.S.
It further argued that those changes, coupled with a final regulation posted in August that would allow for the indefinite detainment of children, should render the Flores Agreement moot. Lawyers wrote in Friday’s opposition brief that the government is attempting through its August 31 filing to “light a match” to the Flores Agreement, but said the filing relied on a “dizzying array” of claims about migrant children and families that federal courts had already rejected.One of the attorneys who contributed to the brief, Neha Desai, said in an email to CBS News that “the government has a legal obligation to ensure the basic rights of children in federal immigration custody.” “(The government) has made multiple failed attempts to have the courts permit it to evade this obligation in the past few years. Now, the government has attempted again, this time through the issuance of regulations and through recycled, unsupported arguments including that circumstances have changed such that Flores should terminate,” wrote Desai, who is the Director of Immigration at the National Center for Youth Law.”These attempts are a basic affront to longstanding principles of child welfare, not to mention human decency,” she added.In the brief, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, attorneys cited experts who said in attached declarations that complex, local socioeconomic factors cause families with kids — or children traveling without families — to uproot their lives. Those factors include gang violence, extreme poverty and local government corruption.”Families do not flee their homelands, subjecting themselves and their children to the disruption of displacement and the risks of the journey, for a single motivating factor — least of all an obscure law or policy in a receiving country, such as the Flores Settlement in the United States — that may or may not afford some degree of protection from prolonged detention,” wrote Amy Thompson, a postdoctoral scholar at the Colegio de Sonora in Mexico, where she studies migration.