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Public Comments Needed on Child Detention Rule

By UUSC Staff on October 19, 2018

The Trump administration is trying to implement a new rule that would allow federal authorities to detain children indefinitely. We have an opportunity to voice our objections now to this abominable proposal before it is too late.

The proposed regulation, misleadingly called “Apprehension, Processing, Care, and Custody of Alien Minors and Unaccompanied Alien Children,” would do away with a court-mandated 20-day limit on the amount of time families with minor children can spend in detention. This change would permit the government to keep kids in confinement for the entirety of their parents’ immigration proceeding, which can last for months or years.

This past summer, Federal District Court Judge Dolly M. Gee explicitly rejected the administration’s earlier efforts to overturn the 20-day limit, calling the administration’s request a “cynical attempt.” The new rule essentially repeats the same error by regulatory means. Both attempts to sidestep the 20-day limit would violate the Flores Settlement Agreement – a key legal safeguard governing the rights of children in U.S. immigration detention.

The administration has repeatedly tried to present indefinite family detention as a solution to its own family separation policy, calling the Flores Settlement a “loophole” that leaves the government with few options other than snatching children from their parents. This argument ignores the existence of proven community-based alternatives to detention, as well as provisions in the Flores Settlement itself that, in the judgment of researchers, effectively forbid family separation.

The government needs to hear that family detention and family separation both violate human rights and cause traumatic harm to asylum-seeking children and their parents. A 2015 UUSC report, “No Safe Haven Here,” documented severe mental health impacts caused by both long-term family detention and family separation. United Nations experts likewise declared in 2016 that children should never be held in immigration detention, calling the detention of families with children “a clear child rights violation.”

The media is reporting that a recent significant spike in the number of families crossing the border will lead to President Trump creating a new family separation policy, one that could be even more harmful than the original. We cannot sit idly by as these highly racist and xenophobic acts are committed in the name of American values and safety.  

The public has until November 6, 2018 to weigh in on the new regulation before it goes into effect. UUSC encourages everyone to submit a public comment to let the administration know that detaining children and families is not in line either with human rights or our fundamental values as people of conscience. Professionals with expertise in child welfare, mental and physical health, and other relevant fields are especially encouraged to make their voices heard.

UUSC’s public comment as an organization is available for reference here.

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