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Press Release AG Healey Joins 20 States in Fight Against Federal Attempt to Undermine the Rights of Children in Immigration Detention

For immediate release:
1/29/2020
  • Office of Attorney General Maura Healey

Media Contact for AG Healey Joins 20 States in Fight Against Federal Attempt to Undermine the Rights of Children in Immigration Detention

Meggie Quackenbush

BostonAttorney General Maura Healey today joined a coalition of 20 attorneys general filing an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs in Flores v. Barr, a case currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit involving the Trump Administration’s attempts to allow for the indefinite detention of children in immigration custody.

Last year, a federal court issued a permanent injunction halting the Trump Administration’s attempts to terminate the Flores Settlement Agreement by replacing it with an inadequate and unlawful new rule. In today’s brief, the attorneys general urge the court to uphold that permanent injunction to prevent the federal government from keeping children in prolonged and unnecessary detention.

“This is a cruel and immoral attack on immigrant children,” said AG Healey. “We’re fighting against this illegal rule because it would pave the way for federal authorities to imprison children and their families indefinitely.”

In August 2019, AG Healey and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra led a multistate coalition in a separate case challenging the Trump Administration’s attempt to undermine the Flores Agreement. The states argue that the rule purports to codify the terms of the Agreement, but in truth, it would eliminate many of its critical terms and allow the Trump Administration to detain immigrant children and their families in prison-like conditions.

The new rule would not only allow for the potential operation of unlicensed family detention facilities in Massachusetts, but it would also cause significant harm to children and families who might come to reside in Massachusetts after being released from such facilities. These children and families may have significant health care and educational needs from the trauma they have experienced, leaving Massachusetts to address these entirely preventable service needs.

The states argue that the rule contravenes Flores by violating the requirement that children be promptly released from federal custody whenever possible and that they be placed in the least restrictive setting possible, consistent with their best interests. The rule eliminates the requirement that children only be held in facilities that are licensed by state agencies, a protection that the states allege has prevented ICE from subjecting children to prolonged detention with their parents. The states argue that the rule will result in the vast expansion of family detention centers and lead to children being held in prolonged detention with significant long-term consequences to their health and well-being.

Detention causes major trauma to children and can lead to long-term psychological harm. Children and adolescents in immigration detention facilities report increased rates of deliberate self-harm and suicidal behavior, severe depression, sleep difficulties, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, poor nutrition, regression, and social withdrawal. Studies show that children raised in detention are more likely to drop out of high school, exhibit aggressive, defiant, and oppositional behavior, and engage in criminal activity later in life.

In an attempt to get around the requirements of the Flores Agreement, the Trump Administration began separating immigrant children from their families last year. AG Healey co-led a coalition of 18 attorneys general in suing the Administration over the family separation policy, arguing that it violated due process, equal protection, and federal law, prompting the Administration to withdraw the policy. 

AG Healey also has led a number of other efforts against the Trump Administration’s illegal and unconstitutional immigration policies, including challenging the terminations of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status, programs that provide protection against removal for hundreds of thousands of long-term residents of the United States. AG Healey has also led challenges to the Trump Administration’s efforts to prevent asylum seekers from seeking refuge in the United States and to dramatically expand the use “expedited removal” to deport immigrants without fair legal process.  

Today’s coalition is led by California AG Becerra and joined by the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

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Media Contact for AG Healey Joins 20 States in Fight Against Federal Attempt to Undermine the Rights of Children in Immigration Detention

Office of Attorney General Maura Healey 

Attorney General Maura Healey is the chief lawyer and law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
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