Immigrant children are under attack. Here’s how to fight back


October 30, 2018

It’s getting harder by the day to keep up with all of the Trump Administration’s unconscionable attacks on immigrants, immigrant children, and immigrant families.
There’s one attack going on right now and we have one week to do something about it.

Back in September, the Trump Administration announced a proposed rule that would terminate a court settlement known as Flores. That settlement, on the books for more than two decades now, was the result of a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of immigrant children. It requires the government to release children from immigration detention without delay to parents, other adult relatives, or licensed programs willing to accept custody (in that order of preference). In subsequent rulings, the settlement was amended to say that the government under no circumstances may detain children in jail-like settings, with or without their families, for more than 20 days.

Along with terminating Flores, the Trump Administration is proposing it be allowed to detain immigrant families (including children) indefinitely. What does “indefinitely” mean? Well, with a backlog of cases pending before immigration judges, “indefinitely” could mean years and years.

Think about that. Children…jailed for years. Growing up in captivity.

Americans recoiled from the Trump Administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their families, forcing them to stop. This proposal would impose inhumane treatment in a different form, and should be opposed just as vehemently.

It gets worse. The new rule would allow the government to detain more families, maintain less-regulated facilities, and make it easier to strip away legal protections for unaccompanied children. As Peter Schey, president of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, stated, “Treating children humanely and not detaining them indefinitely in often intolerable conditions is not a legal loophole, as the secretary of homeland security claims. It is the way civilized nations treat innocent children.”

Last summer, CHN Executive Director Deborah Weinstein discussed the harmful impact detention has on children. She cited a report by the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and Women’s Refugee Commission, which concluded:

“Family detention cannot be carried our humanely. Conditions at the Artesia and Karnes facilities are entirely inappropriate for mothers and children. Detention traumatizes families, undermines the basic family structure, and has a devastating psycho-social impact.”

So what can we do?

Tuesday, Nov. 6, is the deadline for submitting comments to the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Health and Human Services (HHS) in opposition to the Trump Administration’s proposed rule. DHS and HHS are required to take public comments into account – and a large number of comments can indicate widespread concern.

We’ve put together a guide that explains why comments are important, and how to submit comments. Our guide even links to sample comments from CHN (but be sure to add text specific to you and make other changes, as suggested in the sample – verbatim repeat comments are not “weighed” as heavily as comments that have text unique to you!)

Just remember: Tuesday, Nov. 6 is the deadline for submitting comments. (Yes, we know something else is happening that day. But this is important too!)

I want to close with a quote from a Human Rights Watch official who visited the Karnes immigration detention facility. This quote appeared in the report by the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and Women’s Refugee Commission:

“Karnes was quite the visit for me. There’s nothing like walking into a prison and the first thing you hear is a crying baby. Two things that should never go together. Never ever.”

CHN Intern Makenna Whitworth, a senior at Brigham Young University, contributed to this blog post.