Judge partially terminates agreement governing conditions for migrant children in US custody

“Our team will hold the government accountable to their promises to keep children in unlicensed facilities safe -and if they fail to provide adequate alternative safeguards to state licensing in Texas and Florida – we will not hesitate to return to court.

Leecia Welch, deputy legal director

A federal judge has partially terminated a decades-old agreement that oversees conditions for migrant children in federal government custody, according to a court order that took effect Monday.

US District Judge Dolly M. Gee’s ruling terminates, with exceptions, the 1997 Flores Settlement agreement – which has set the national standards for the humane treatment of children in US custody – at the Department of Health and Human Services, while allowing the agreement to remain in full effect at US Customs and Border Protection and US Immigration Customs Enforcement. The court agreed with the Biden administration, with some exceptions, that a new HHS regulation, which went into effect on Monday, provided appropriate oversight and “multiple safeguards” to account for the lack of state licensing in places like Texas and Florida.

Unaccompanied migrant children go through immigration processing while in CBP custody before they are transferred to the care of HHS, where they remain until they are reunited with a sponsor, like a parent or relative in the US.

“We are deeply disappointed by the Court’s ruling and concerned it places thousands of children in harm’s way,” said Leecia Welch, counsel for the plaintiffs and deputy legal director at Children’s Rights.

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