In response to public outrage, an Executive Order (the “Order”) was signed on June 20, 2018, that changes the government’s policy of separating immigrant families but only to the extent that resources or “appropriations” are available to house the families together.
The Order confirms the government’s “zero tolerance” policy of choosing to criminally prosecute all immigrants that enter the country without prior permission, and advises that the government is in the process of petitioning to modify the Flores Settlement Agreement to remove its requirements regarding the length of time that a child can be detained.
In other words, the government will now keep families together but only if there are available resources to do so, and only if the government is permitted to keep the families detained as long as it takes to criminally prosecute the parents, finish their immigration administrative processes, and remove the whole family from the country at the same time.
The Flores Settlement Agreement limits the duration of time that a child can be detained and sets minimum standards for the conditions of a child’s detention. Removing the time limitation and minimum standards for detention set forth in Flores means that children could be held for months or years in confined areas with little to no psychological stimulation, exercise, fresh air, schooling, or nutritional meals, with increased exposure to the psychological trauma that results from being detained for long periods of time.
The Order does not develop a plan to reunite the thousands of children already separated from their parents, nor does it address the abuse and mistreatment that has been reported at existing detention centers for children that are being held without their parents.
If you need to report an incident of abuse that has occurred at a government detention facility, call the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General hotline: 1-800-323-8603. If you are concerned with the government’s zero tolerance and detention policy, call your local congressperson and make your voice heard.
This is not intended to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney for advice regarding your specific situation.
Jennifer S. Echevarria is an Associate with the firm and practices Immigration and Employment Law including U-Visas and wage violations. She is bilingual in Spanish and can be reached by phone at 866-303-9595 toll free or 845-764-9656 and by email.