Senators Urge Congress to Amend Flores Settlement Agreement
By Heather Ham-Warren | August 3, 2018
Earlier this summer, the Trump Administration announced that it would begin to bring criminal charges against every single alien caught illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. This “zero-tolerance policy” was generally celebrated as a victory for the millions of Americans who voted for the president in the 2016 elections. However, logistics involving the Flores settlement agreement have proven to be more difficult than anticipated.
As Flores currently stands, the government cannot hold illegal alien children past 20 days, meaning at 21 days, a child must be separated from his or her parent if the parent remains in custody. Given these restraints, critics were quick to rename the zero-tolerance policy the “family-separation policy,” which ultimately, has become a public relations nightmare for the Trump Administration.
Last week, Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), released a joint op-ed reiterating their disapproval of separating families and called on their colleagues in Congress to amend the Flores agreement.
“Like millions across our country, we too were horrified at the sight of thousands of children being separated from their parents. As parents ourselves, we can only imagine the pain and anguish these families faced. But, as U.S. Senators — and more importantly, as Americans — we also understand that our immigration system must also enforce our laws,” the op-ed reads.
“For weeks, we have worked together with our Senate colleagues in a bipartisan fashion to solve this crisis. After countless hours of discussion, we believe the path forward is a relatively simple one. First, Congress needs to make clear that the Flores consent decree does not apply to family units. The Flores consent decree and the standards of care required for unaccompanied minor children would remain in effect, but federal authorities would have the ability to keep families together pending the outcome of their immigration case.
Second, Congress needs to codify the high humane standards we expect families to be treated with while they are kept in federal custody in family residential centers. The public is right to be concerned that individuals may receive inadequate care and shelter, and Congress should ensure that no one is treated with any less dignity than they deserve.
Third, and finally, Congress should authorize and appropriate money for more immigration judges, so that cases can be adjudicated and resolved quickly. Keeping families in federal custody temporarily is an appropriate policy solution to this crisis, but only if cases are resolved expeditiously.
Fixing these problems will end this crisis and return integrity to our nation’s lawful immigration system.”
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have officially broken to August recess, but this issue will likely remain when they return to Washington, DC following Labor Day. Some reports indicate that the White House is currently reviewing a plan to modify Flores through administrative means. Once text of the regulation is released to the public, it will have to go through the full rulemaking process.
Stay tuned to FAIR for updates.