Biden Administration Moves to Terminate Flores Agreement Governing Conditions for Migrant Children

In a significant development, the Biden administration has taken steps to terminate the long-standing Flores settlement, which has governed conditions for migrant children in government custody since 1997. According to a court filing, the administration argues that the settlement, intended to be temporary, no longer serves its original purpose.

The Flores settlement mandates that the government release children from custody without undue delay to sponsors, such as parents or adult relatives, and outlines specific conditions for the care of children held in government custody, overseen by the Health and Human Services Department (HHS).

Previously signaling its intent to end the Flores agreement, the Biden administration has crafted a federal regulation designed to replace it. This regulation, published in late April, aims to faithfully implement the requirements of the settlement while providing additional protections and addressing unforeseen changes since 1997.

The court filing asserts that the Flores settlement was initially intended as a temporary measure, with provisions for termination after five years or upon the publication of final regulations by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The Biden administration contends that the new regulation, which aligns with evolving needs and standards, will provide necessary protections to unaccompanied migrant children for years to come.

However, immigration attorneys have raised concerns about the potential consequences of terminating the Flores settlement. Neha Desai, senior director of immigration at the National Center for Youth Law, emphasized the loss of outside oversight and accountability if the settlement is terminated. Without the framework provided by the Flores agreement, advocates would no longer have the ability to ensure that children in HHS custody receive the protections guaranteed by the settlement.

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