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Why Trump’s New Push for Kids’ Indefinite Detention in Traumatic Conditions Would Also Mean No Accountability

 

Leading observers continue to point out the potential harm of the Trump administration’s announcement to target kids and vulnerable families through indefinite detention

For example, read Cornell Law professor Jaclyn Kelley-Widmer in the Washington Post recapping the details and implications of the proposed changes to Flores. The research shows long-term detention has lasting mental health effects on children and that the threat of indefinite detention will not deter desperate families. And in case you missed it, read Marshall Fitz’s powerful op-ed in the Post last week on how the new rule could prove “devastating” to children.

In addition to the trauma caused by indefinite detention, the Trump administration’s new regulation would shield these detention facilities from public scrutiny and policymaker accountability. In The Atlantic, “If a Child Is Jailed and No One Is There to Hear Him Cry,” by Barbara Bradley Hagerty, points out that the Trump administration’s new rule seeking to change Flores would result in next to no meaningful oversight and would severely restrict the ability of lawyers, advocates, and experts to shine a light on the conditions facing kids in these facilities:

For months at a time, the detention of migrant children seems to fall off the national radar, somehow fading to the background, behind the daily dramas of scandals big and small. And then suddenly, news will erupt: The children don’t have soap. They are freezing. The food is rotten.

Where this information comes from is not primarily from journalists but monitors—lawyers and advocates who regularly visit the nation’s detention facilities and border-patrol facilities to document the conditions. They do so not because these sites request the monitoring, but because that monitoring is allowed by what’s known as the Flores settlement, a 22-year-old consent decree that governs the care of migrant children in custody.

But with new rules that the Trump administration is expected to publish this week, even that single, infrequent geyser of information could go away. As part of a sweeping proposal to scrap the Flores regulations—including a change that would enable the Trump administration to detain migrant children in secure facilities indefinitely—the administration will lose the existing monitoring requirements entirely, according to two lawyers familiar with this area of law. The result will be that the long-term detention of migrant children would carry on out of view from advocates, the American public at large, and the entire world.

According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communications for America’s Voice, “The Trump administration plans to indefinitely detain children in facilities that too often fail to meet even the most basic standards of decency and humanity. Now Trump and his team not only want to lock up kids and throw away the key, they are trying to do so without any accountability on how the children are treated. Children shouldn’t be held in detention, full stop. But the new rule would replace sunlight with darkness and threatens to undermine any attempts to ensure that basic dignities of how children are treated are maintained. This is one more reason the  administration’s relentless attacks against immigrants and asylum-seekers are pernicious and legal challenges to the new rule are essential.”