We saw how the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Trump administration’s claim that it was not required to provide the detained migrant children with what any normal, decent, human being would consider the basic necessities, such as soap, toothpaste, showers, edible food, clean drinking water, beds and not be kept in very cold rooms with thin blankets and no proper bedding and with lights permanently on even during the night,
The court ruled that those basic requirements were perfectly consistent with the Flores agreement that had been reached back in 1997 that detailed how the US government should treat children subject to detention by U.S. immigration authorities. It also held that that the government must release children within 20 days, if not to their parents then to a sponsor in the community or another type of program. So does the administration decide to follow the courts’ order? Of course not. Trump has decided to unilaterally vacate the Flores agreement by means of an executive order.
Can Trump do that? Already 20 states have sued to stop him and the administration will have a difficult time getting the courts to agree with its action.
But they could try to pass legislation to that effect.
Republicans in Congress have proposed legislation that would overrule Flores and allow children to be kept with their parents in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody while they are put through criminal prosecution and deportation proceedings — which many migrant families fight by claiming asylum in the US, a process that can stretch out for months or years.
Trump can’t overrule the Flores settlement with the stroke of a pen. But getting rid of the court agreement has been in his administration’s sights for months. While Republicans frame Flores as the obstacle to keeping families together, many of the people outraged over family separation might not be too happy with a world without Flores, either.
I cannot see the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passing this legislation.
Providing basic necessities to children held in these awful conditions goes against the clear intention of this administration to treat these detained children as cruelly as possible, so that is one reason Trump is seeking to bypass Flores.
But I think that there is another reason that the administration wants to get rid of Flores. That agreement required that the facilities be opened to inspection by independent monitors and it was those monitors, shocked by what they observed, who immediately went public and created the recent uproar. By getting rid of Flores, the Trump administration gets rid of the monitors and can keep the conditions of detention secret from the outside world.