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Physicians for Human Rights Condemns U.S. Attempt to Eliminate Legal Protections for Immigrant Children

For Immediate Release

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) condemned today’s request by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to modify the 1997 Flores settlement agreement by seeking exemption from the requirements that children be kept in the least restrictive setting possible and that ICE family residential facilities be licensed by an appropriate state agency to provide residential care for children.

PHR stated that the DOJ’s motion, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, violated the best interests of the child, the prevailing standard for such matters.

The following statement is attributable to Homer Venters, MD, PHR director of programs:

“The DOJ’s request to modify Flores is a cynical effort to strip away basic legal protections for immigrant children and to institutionalize family detention under the guise of ending forced separation – a policy initiated by the Trump administration. The DOJ inaccurately argues that only family detention can keep families together while ensuring compliance with immigration proceedings. In reality, extensive evidence shows that community-based case management services, whose funding the administration cut last year, keep families together while having compliance rates of over 97 percent. 

“It is equally unacceptable that the DOJ seeks to eliminate state licensure requirements for ICE family residential facilities. Without state licensure, there would be no guarantee of adherence to existing minimum standards, which are designed to protect children and families. In practice, such a modification would legalize ad hoc detention sites, including tent cities on military bases.

“Families should be placed in community-based settings while their proceedings are pending, and no detention facility should ever be exempt from state licensing requirements. Prolonged or indefinite detention violates the right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.”

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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