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Trump moves to weaken migrant child protection laws

The Trump administration has been under attack over the last few months for its contentious policy of separating migrant children entering the country from their families. Public outcry eventually led to the administration repealing the rule, and family reunification efforts have begun.

Now, the administration has taken another step to discourage migrants and asylum seekers from entering the country: it’s attempting to dismantle basic child protection standards.

Current protections

The Flores settlement has been in place since 1997. It is a key piece of legislation that grants basic protections to migrant children. The law:

  • Puts a limit on how long the government can detain a migrant child (20 days) and
  • Outlines the conditions of a child’s detention—specifying that the setting cannot be jail-like.

The Flores settlement was created in response to the large body of research showing the serious physical and emotional harm that a child suffers from being detained in a jail-like environment over an extended period.

Proposed change

The current administration has been trying to challenge the Flores settlement in court, but judges have consistently rejected such efforts. As a result, the administration is now trying to back out of the decree and circumvent the court system altogether.

The White House is proposing to replace the Flores settlement with new regulations surrounding child protection, which will allow the government to detain migrant families indefinitely in “secure facilities” without any judicial oversight.

Child advocates have vehemently attacked the move, calling the proposed treatment inhumane. They claim that, in response to its own failure to comply with child protection laws, the administration is now attempting to nullify such laws—with a promise that it can effectively oversee itself. Children’s attorneys and other child rights advocates consider the move to be appalling and have vowed to strongly fight this effort in court.

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