Trump administration seeks to cancel the Flores agreement

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.


  1. Dunc says

    But isn’t the supposed justification for these harsh conditions that it is intended to discourage others from attempting to enter the US, in which case it is necessary for them to be widely known about?

    One might almost suspect that all such justifications are simply post-hoc rationalisations of a desire to inflict cruelty for its own sake…

  2. johnson catman says

    Proving, once again, that the CRUELTY is the POINT for this administration. Sick, sick, bastards.

  3. Mano Singham says


    Yes, they do want the cruelty to be known to potential immigrants but they want it to get to them via the immigrant grapevine, out of sight of the US public. When US monitors of doctors and lawyers and social workers are shocked and tell the US media, that is a story they do not want told.

  4. Dunc says

    they want it to get to them via the immigrant grapevine, out of sight of the US public.

    Does that sound even vaguely plausible to anybody else? Because it doesn’t sound very plausible to me… These aren’t the days of the Underground Railroad.

  5. Mano Singham says


    Cell phones are ubiquitous in developing countries where landlines have always been very hard to get and so it shouldn’t be surprising that migrants have cell phones and through their social media feeds quickly learn about the various twists and turns of US policy towards them and adapt accordingly.

    It is in the US and the developed world that a cell phone is viewed by some as a luxury. In many countries, it is an essential item for poor people who use it for their businesses, among other things. A long time ago, before I owned a cell phone, I was astounded on a visit to Sri Lanka to see street vendors and the drivers of the little scooter taxis all having cell phones.

  6. jrkrideau says

    These aren’t the days of the Underground Railroad.

    They are not? USA citizens trying to rescue the oppressed? Eh?

    USA citizens at their best.

  7. Dunc says

    Mano: yes, that was rather my point -- or more specifically, the fact that modern communications technology is ubiquitous means that it’s ludicrous to imagine that there is some “immigrant grapevine” which is somehow disconnected from the rest of the world. That’s what I meant by my reference to the Underground Railroad, when such information was shared by means (such as folk songs and hobo signs) which were not transparent to people from other cultures. I should have left in a more direct statement that I trimmed: “The ‘immigrant grapevine’ is the internet“.

    It’s also worth remembering than many migrants already have friends and relatives in the US, making it even more impossible to keep such information segregated.

  8. Mano Singham says

    But there is a huge difference in how the US media treats sources, whether they hear about conditions from migrants who hear it on the grapevine or they get it from quasi-official sources like the doctors and lawyers and social workers who visited the sites. The latter reports are given far more credence and publicity.

    After all, the awful conditions had been in existence for some time. But it was only after the monitors blew the whistle that it became big news.

  9. Dunc says

    So, not so much “out of sight of the American public” as “out of sight of anyone the mainstream US media feels obliged to take seriously”… That’s a somewhat different proposition, but I see what you mean.

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