Our mission is to represent all detained minors in the Flores federal court
case, to ensure that their conditions of detention are safe and secure and
meet the requirements of the several Flores settlements which set the
standards for the conditions of detention and release of minors, and to
monitor compliance with the Flores settlements by visiting and inspecting
detention facilities national-wide, including Border Patrol facilities.
In 1997, after ten years of litigation, CHRCL reached a historic nationwide
settlement with the Government addressing the conditions of detention
of immigrant minors and their right to release from custody. In summary,
the Flores Settlement requires the Government to detain minors in facilities
licensed for the care of dependent minors. It requires that detained minors have access to a range of services including health care, education, and family reunification services. It appoints CHRCL Executive Director Peter Schey and General Counsel Carlos Holguin as class counsel for all detained minors nationwide.
We are establishing immediate telephonic communication between children and parents, restoring parents’ decision-making over their children, and covering out-of-pocket expenses for volunteer social workers, mental health specialists and lawyers, and providing services rendered to help parents who are already deported apply to return to the U.S. to be safely reunited with their children.
We work with community-based organizations and advocacy groups that
have advocated on behalf of detained immigrant children for many
years. We routinely exchange information, provide technical support and
trainings, and coordinate conference calls about developments regarding
detained children's rights. Your organization's legal, medical members, or staff may participate in Flores detention site inspections and interviews with detained children for the purpose of gathering declarations and reports for submission to the United States judge overseeing nationwide compliance with the terms of the Flores settlement.
The Flores Settlement
On July 11, 1985, the Center filed Flores v. Meese, a class action lawsuit against the US Attorney General on behalf of several minors, including 15 year old Jenny Lisette Flores, alleging that the government's detention policies were in violation of the Due Process Clause and Equal Protections Clause of the United States Constitution.
Jenny Flores was arrested in San Ysidro, California while fleeing the Salvadoran Civil war where civilians were being targeted and terrorized. She was moved to Pasadena where she was repeatedly strip-searched and held for two months among unknown adults.
This litigation process led to the 1993 Supreme Court ruling Reno v. Flores (507 US 292) and then the subsequent Flores v. Reno Settlement Agreement on January 28, 1997 after a four-year battle over sub-par detention standards.
The 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement applies child welfare protections to vulnerable immigrant children. The Settlement sets national standards for the detention and humane treatment, and prompt release of all minors detained in the custody of the federal government, and is critical to the ongoing protection of these children.
Here are just a few of the stipulations made in the agreement:
Children must be held in the “least restrictive setting” appropriate, based on his or her age and needs.
Children must be held in facilities that are "safe and sanitary" and that are consistent with the INS's concern for the particular vulnerability of minors.
Children must be released “without unnecessary delay” to a sponsor, which may be a parent, relative, designate of the parent, or responsible adult, as deemed appropriate.
The Settlement protects “[a]ll minors who are detained in the legal custody of the INS or its successors in interest, ICE, CBP, and ORR.
Under the settlement, CHRCL is the only non-governmental organization in the country permitted to inspect every detention site where children are held and to interview and assess the treatment of all detained children. CHRCL continues to monitor the government's compliance with the Flores Settlement and will file motions if violations of the settlement terms are found.
Status of the Settlement
In response to President Trump's Executive Order 13841, “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation,” 83 FR 29435, issued June 20, 2018, the Department of Justice submitted an application in federal court in Los Angeles to strip away the option of immigrant children to early release and to be held in licensed facilities under the 1997 Flores settlement. The Court denied the application.
In 2019, the Trump administration issued final regulations regarding the conditions of detention of minors and again sought to terminate the 1997 Flores settlement. The Court blocked implementation of the final regulations and again rejected the administration's effort to terminate the 1997 Flores settlement.
In 2020-2021 the Court issued several orders to protect detained minors from the risks of COVID-19 and requiring the prompt release of detained minors to their family members residing in the U.S.
In 2022 the Court approved a settlement requiring that the U.S. Border Patrol in the Rio Grande and El Paso Sectors not separate children from their parents or legal guardians unless, on rare occasions, there is a perceived risk of harm to the child, requires CBP to provide a multilayered medical system for children and families in custody, requires the provision of age-appropriate meals and snacks that meet minors' daily nutritional needs, requires the designation of specific facilities in each sector to house and process unaccompanied minors and families, requires the appointment of an independent Juvenile Care Monitor who is charged with conducting independent assessments of custodial conditions for children held in CBP facilities in the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso sectors.
In 2022 the Court also approved a settlement requiring that the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) release class members detained at Emergency Intake Sites (EISs) to qualified custodians without unnecessary delay, place all minors in a licensed program as expeditiously as possible, transfer particularly vulnerable children out of the Fort Bliss EIS and the Pecos EIS, adopt mandatory standards to ensure that EISs comply with the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s standards for influx care facilities, and provide class members with continuous case management.
Timeline and Resources
June, 2017 - Ninth Circuit Rules that Children in ORR Custody Must be Provided Custody Hearings
April, 2018 - Legal Aid Groups Sue Office of Refugee Resettlement
June, 2018 - Executive Order 13841 - Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation
July, 2018 - Federal District Court Denies Government’s Emergency Request to Terminate Legal Rights of Children
August, 2019 - The history of the litigation was published by the New York Times in an article entitled The History of Migrant Children Protection in America Started With Two Girls in Los Angeles