More than 130 members of Congress filed a brief in federal appeals court opposing a Trump administration effort to lengthen the amount of time children in immigration custody can be held behind bars, a nonprofit law firm with an office in El Segundo announced Wednesday.
The National Center for Youth Law, which provides legal assistance for low-income children, said additional briefs authored by children’s and immigrants’ rights organizations, interfaith religious organizations, professional medical and educational associations, state attorneys general offices, cities and counties, and international law professors and clinics were also filed Tuesday with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The center filed its own brief on Jan. 21 to combat what it calls an effort to undermine the so-called Flores settlement agreement and the protections it provides to children in federal immigration custody.
In September, a Los Angeles federal judge upheld the 1997 agreement in a strongly worded opinion that blocked the government from enacting new regulations. The government appealed the decision to the 9th Circuit in November.
U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee’s decision rejected both the Trump administration’s bid to terminate the Flores settlement agreement and an attempt to indefinitely detain migrant families who illegally cross the border. If put into effect, the new rule would have abolished the settlement’s 20-day cap on detaining families in immigration jails.
The judge wrote that the government’s new regulations “fail to implement and are inconsistent with” the terms of the agreement.
The two-decade-old Flores settlement agreement outlines a minimum standard of care for migrant children in U.S. custody. The agreement has been in place since 1997 and is overseen by Gee in Los Angeles federal court.
In August, the Trump administration announced an effort to end the agreement. The state of California immediately filed suit opposing the effort.
Also in August, a three-judge appeals court panel upheld Gee’s order requiring immigration authorities to provide minors with adequate food, water, bedding, toothbrushes and soap. Gee issued the order in 2017 after finding that children in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody did not have adequate food, clean water or basic hygiene items and were held in conditions that deprived them of sleep.
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