HRC Fights Trump-Pence Proposal to Incarcerate Immigrant Children

by HRC Staff

HRC responded to the 60-day open comment period on this proposed rule that would fundamentally alter the long-standing Flores Settlement Agreement, strongly objecting to the change.

Post submitted by former Senior International Policy Advocate Jeremy Kadden

As the Trump-Pence administration escalates its attacks on immigrants and immigrant children, HRC continues to sound the alarm that families belong together. In September 2018, the administration announced that it was seeking to create a new rule that would fundamentally alter the long-standing “Flores Settlement Agreement” (FSA) -- a move which would have devastating impacts on immigrant families.

Since 1997, the FSA ensures that children are not exposed to prolonged periods of immigration detention. In spring 2018, the Trump-Pence administration’s “zero tolerance” policy ran up against this vital safeguard. The administration stated that immigration authorities would detain and prosecute as criminals anyone who entered the U.S. without documentation. This stark change in policy led to the indefinite detention of thousands of immigrants, far beyond the scope of  previous detention policies.

The administration then began separating immigrant families at the border -- due to the FSA, which mandates that children cannot legally be detained by immigration authorities for longer than 20 days. The public outcry against this inhumane, cruel family separation policy was overwhelming and, with more than 2,000 children separated from their families, the administration temporarily backed down.

The new rule that the Trump-Pence administration is trying to implement would mean that immigration authorities could hold children in detention with their families for far longer than the 20 days mandated under the FSA. This would allow them to detain immigrant families together without having to separate the children from their parents, but it would still lead to the indefinite incarceration of children, toddlers and even babies.

HRC responded to the 60-day open comment period on this proposed rule, strongly objecting to the change. “We are deeply concerned that the proposed rule will put LGBTQ immigrants, including LGBTQ immigrant children, at increased risk of discrimination and abuse,” HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy wrote. “The lifelong impact of this regulation on individuals cannot be overstated.”

In his letter, Stacy letter also made reference to the case of Roxsana Hernandez, a transgender woman who died in custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in May 2018 -- a case that called into question the health and safety protocols in place for those in U.S. immigration detention. “Under the proposed rule, ICE would be able to detain LGBTQ people and their families for prolonged periods of time and, by lengthening the time they are detained and exposed to risks to their safety, increasing their risk of abuse.”

HRC stands with coalition partners in demanding the humane treatment of all undocumented immigrants and will not rest while LGBTQ migrants are subjected to horrific treatment based on their sexuality and gender identity.