Since the 1990s, a court ruling called the Flores settlement has protected immigrant children and infants in the United States from being detained indefinitely in jail-like conditions by limiting the duration of detention to 20 days and requiring that facilities be state-licensed for child care. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has proposed to replace the Flores settlement with a new federal rule which would allow the government to detain children indefinitely in unlicensed facilities.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) experts have conducted forensic evaluations of asylum seekers for more than 25 years, including recent evaluations of children and families in immigration detention. The medical and mental health evidence is clear that detention is harmful for children; international human rights law is clear that detention is never in a child’s best interest and violates minimum child protection standards. Alternatives to detention, including case management programming, are a rights-respecting alternative which prevent health harms and ensure compliance with immigration proceedings, and should be relied upon as the preferred policy option.
PHR opposes the proposed changes as announced in DHS Docket No. ICEB-2018-0002 and urges the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that every policy affecting children and families is guided by the best interests of the child, consistent with clinical best practice and humane treatment standards under U.S. and international law.