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Press Release // Immigration and Asylum

Statement on Lengthening Detention Time of Immigrant Families With Children

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Global Refuge Staff

August 21, 2019

In the latest attack on the most vulnerable among us, the Trump administration has proposed terminating the Flores Settlement Agreement (FSA), a federal consent decree in place since 1977 that stipulates that immigrant children cannot be detained more than 20 days. The new rule, expected to be issued Friday, would remove that restriction, essentially allowing unlimited incarceration of children and families.

Detaining children is never in their best interest and ignores the fact that medical experts all agree that short- and long-term detention damages a child’s physical and mental health.  Global Refuge believes that this careless rule places children’s lives at risk.

“This rule means that families would be detained throughout the course of their immigration proceedings – which could be mean months or years depending how long it takes for their case to be heard and resolved,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Global Refuge. “Ending the protections of Flores would allow babies and children to be detained in jail-like conditions. This rule is like putting the wolf in charge of the sheep. We’ve already seen six children die while in U.S. custody. “

“This proposed rule breaks every international treaty governing humane detention of prisoners—and make no mistake, that’s what these children would be,” Vignarajah said. “The government should focus on proven tested and humane alternatives to detention, like family case management, which has a 99 percent compliance rate. There is simply no justification for detaining children—or any humans– indefinitely.”

“The government’s argument that humane restrictions on detention leads asylee families to think they have a ‘free pass’ to the U.S. is ridiculous on its face,” Vignarajah said. “What leads families to flee everything they know, family, friends, culture– and travel thousands of miles, often on foot, carrying nothing but their children and the clothes on their backs? It’s a credible fear and that’s what allows a family to stay in this country as they exercise a legal right.”

Global Refuge strongly condemns this latest attack in the unceasing war on immigrants and urges the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services to work with us and other NGOs to develop a sane, sound and safe plan that respects the rights and dignity of all of God’s children.

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