Call to Action: Support Saving the Flores Settlement Agreement

By: 
Rebeca Ontiveros-Chavez

I’m an attorney at the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC). I represent children and youth who are in deportation proceedings and metro Detroit area residents on a variety of immigration matters. Over the past year alone, MIRC has represented approximately 280 children in immigration matters as a part of the Unaccompanied Minors program.

Like all the children I represent, I am an immigrant. I immigrated to the United States when I was a toddler. I became eligible to apply to become a permanent resident and eventually became a United States Citizen. Undoubtedly, my work is a life calling and a dream come true. I do this work because of my personal story and because I realize how incredibly lucky I’ve been. And it wasn’t because of anything special that I did. My personal experience helps me relate and connect to the people I serve. I make sure that I take appropriate care to develop their cases and seeing me hopefully inspires them to continue hoping for a better future.

Today, I need your help to demand that all children are protected. On September 7, 2018, the administration published a Notice of Public Rulemaking (NPRM). With this NPRM, the administration is pursuing the indefinite incarceration of vulnerable children and families thereby seeking to end the Flores Settlement Agreement (FSA). The FSA has been in place for decades. It is designed to protect the well-being and basic rights of children in the custody of the federal government, including people seeking asylum. It does so by setting basic standards of care and prevents the U.S. from detaining children indefinitely in prison-like conditions. The administration’s proposal would transform the child welfare protections of the FSA and punishes children and their families seeking protection in the United States.

We urge organizations to submit robust comments detailing their opposition to the proposed rule and we will commit to supporting organizations in those efforts as we have done for the Michigan Civil Rights Commission (MCRC). We are grateful that the MCRC continues to defend the civil rights of immigrant children and their families. In our own comment, we partnered with the National Association of Social Workers - Michigan Chapter to express our strong opposition to the proposed rule to amend regulations relating to the apprehension, processing, care, custody, and release of children. We believe the proposed rule undermines the purpose underlying the FSA. Rather than advancing the child welfare principles for immigrant children seeking protection in the United States, the proposed rule expands the authority of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to jail families in impoverished conditions and dismantles established protections for immigrant children in DHS and Health and Human Services custody.

Anyone can submit a comment. Please visit www.stopfamilydetention.org to directly submit a short, individual comment rejecting the administration’s latest cruel attack on immigrant families. A child is a child no matter what country they are born in. A child is a child even when they cross the border. And our children deserve to be safe.

The deadline to submit a comment is Tuesday, November 6th.