Judge Blocks Trump Administration’s Attempt to End Flores Agreement

Credits: U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Rio Grande Valley Sector via AP

A judge stopped the Trump administration’s attempt to end the Flores Agreement and  allow prolonged detention of migrant families with children in licensed facilities.

On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Dolly M. Gee rejected the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Health and Humans Services’ (HHS) final rule to terminate the Flores Agreement. The departments’ primary objective is to prevent influx of unaccompanied migrant children and family units crossing the border into the United States.

Judge says Flores Agreement is “binding contract and consent decree”

In her ruling, Judge Gee noted that the “throughout several presidential administrations,” the Flores Agreement “has been necessary relevant, and critical to the public interest in maintaining standards for the detention and release of minors arriving at the United States’ borders.”

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She found that the DHS and HHS’ final rule violates the terms of the Flores Agreement, which sets standards for the detention and release of unaccompanied children under immigration custody.

She stated that the Flores Agreement is a “binding contract and a consent decree. It is a final, binding judgment that was never appealed.” The DHS and HHS “cannot simply ignore the terms of the dictates of the consent decree merely because they no longer agree with its approach as a matter of policy.”

“Defendants cannot simply impose their will by promulgating regulations that abrogate the consent decree’s most basic tenets. That violates the rule of law. And that this court cannot permit,” wrote Judge Gee.

Judge Gee denied the Trump administration’s motion to terminate the Flores Agreement. She also issued a permanent injunction to prohibiting the implementation or enforcement of the final rule.

A major victory for immigrant children

Under the Flores Agreement, the federal government must place minors in safe and sanitary facilities and provide them with drinking water, food and medical assistance and make a continuous effort toward family reunification. It must also release children within 20 days.

In a statement, the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL), commented, “The continuation of the Flores Settlement Agreement is a huge victory for immigrant children.” The advocacy group is expecting the Trump administration to appeal the court’s decision.

In August, a multistate coalition also filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s plan to end the Flores Agreement.