Act now to protect the well-being of immigrant children and families entering the U.S.

Written by: Sarah Barnes
Date Posted: October 26, 2018

The Trump Administration recently released proposed rules that would make significant changes to a long-standing agreement that protects the safety and well-being of immigrant children in the United States. Known as the Flores Settlement, it was established to ensure that migrant children in the custody of the federal government are afforded critical protections and are cared for in settings that are in the best interest of the child. The administration’s proposed rule is not consistent with the requirements of the Flores Settlement, is at odds with decades of research on child well-being, and would cause unnecessary harm to the safety, health, development and well-being of children.

The federal government needs to hear from you on this issue. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau in the Department of Homeland Security is seeking public comment in the Federal Register on the proposed rule. Please make your voice heard and join us in submitting a comment urging the withdrawal of the proposed rule.

The deadline to submit comments is Nov. 6. Here is how you can speak up for immigrant children and families:

  • Step 1: Use the sample comments below to create your comments. Adapt the sample comments below to reflect your unique perspective on why this issue matters and use your own words whenever possible to provide a unique set of comments that will be counted in the public record.
  • Step 2: Click hereto access the Federal Register.
  • Step 3:Paste your comments into the comment box. Once you have entered your information and completed the form, click “Submit Comment.”

If you have any questions about this issue or would like support in submitting comments, please feel free to reach out to Sarah Barnes at sarahb@coloradokids.org.

SAMPLE COMMENTS

Debbie Seguin

Assistant Director, Office of Policy

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Department of Homeland Security

500 12th Street SW

Washington, DC 20536

RE: Comments on Proposed Rule Regarding Apprehension, Processing, Care and Custody of Alien Minors and Unaccompanied Alien Children, Docket No. ICEB-2018-0002

We write to respectfully offer comments on the proposed rule referenced above. We strongly oppose the proposed changes to the Flores Settlement and urge the Administration to withdraw the proposed rule. The proposal would expand the use of family detention and undo protections for migrant children. The proposed rule should be withdrawn because it is not consistent with the requirements of the Flores Settlement, is at odds with decades of research on child well-being, and would cause unnecessary harm to the safety, health, development and well-being of children.

[ADD A SENTENCE HERE ABOUT YOUR ORGANIZATION, OR ABOUT WHY THIS ISSUE MATTERS TO YOU.]

Holding children in detention, with or without their parents, has significant and long-lasting consequences for children’s safety, health, development and well-being. Studies show that children who are detained experience trauma, stress, and anxiety, and that detainment may cause developmental delays and long-term mental health risks for children, according to research published by the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Community Pediatrics.  When children experience trauma or adversity, the stress associated with traumatic events can be toxic to their developing brains unless they receive adequate support from parents and caregivers. Parents in detention may not have the ability to provide critical support or the care they want to give to their children in order to act as a buffer against the stress and anxiety that detained children experience.

The Flores Settlement was established to ensure that migrant children in the custody of the federal government are afforded critical protections and are cared for in settings that are in the best interest of the child. At its core, this proposed rule relies on flawed rationales and ignores relevant child welfare research in order to justify the expansion of family detention and the removal of protections for migrant children—both of which would greatly undermine the safety, development and well-being of children.

The increased use of family detention that would result from the adoption of this proposed rule will  negatively impact the physical and mental health of children and families. We oppose the harmful and dangerous practice of detaining children—alone or with their parents—and believe that all facilities overseeing the care of children should be subject to standards established by an agency with child welfare expertise.

The proposed rule would eliminate the requirement that children be held in facilities licensed by an agency with expertise in child welfare, and would instead allow children to be detained with their parents for as long as necessary in facilities that only comply with standards established by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). State licensing standards for the care of children in out-of-home settings exist to provide a baseline of protection for the health and safety of children in light of their particular needs, according to researchers Jack P. Shonkoff and Deborah A. Phillips. These standards are developed by agencies whose missions typically include safeguarding the well-being of children, such as child welfare or child care agencies. Current standards established by ICE for family detention centers fail to address core components of child well-being and protection. These standards lack a recognition of the wide range of children’s social-emotional, health, and physical needs at varying ages. As a result, the proposed rule removes critical protections in the Flores Settlement regarding the conditions under which migrant children can be held in detention, which will negatively impact children’s well-being, health and safety.

The proposed rule would also expand the definition of an “emergency” to broaden the conditions under which the government would be allowed to suspend or delay compliance with any requirements that protect children held in detention, which would further jeopardize the well-being, health and safety of children being held in detention facilities.

There is never an appropriate reason to jail a child or deny him or her of basic needs. Every child that comes into the custody of our government should be guaranteed the protection and services necessary to mitigate trauma and promote their healthy development. We encourage the Administration to withdraw this proposed rule without delay.

Sincerely,

Sarah Barnes

About Sarah Barnes

Sarah serves as the Policy Analyst for the Colorado Children’s Campaign. Prior to joining the Children’s Campaign in September 2014, Sarah taught middle school English and worked as an Interventionist at Pioneer Charter School in Denver. She was a 2011 Teach For America corps member. Prior to teaching, Sarah worked as an attorney in Denver in the areas of venture capital, mergers and acquisitions, general corporate and business law, and commercial transactions. Sarah earned a BA in English from Midland University and a J.D. from the University of Michigan.