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Attorney General Nessel Joins Coalition to Keep Immigrant Children Safe in Civil Detention

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel today joined a coalition of 20 attorneys general taking action to force U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to keep immigrant children in safe, sanitary settings.  In its amicus brief, the coalition urged the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to grant immediate relief to remedy the imminent threat to the health and welfare of immigrant children detained by CBP.

Immigrant children have been held for weeks in inhumane conditions without access to basic necessities like soap, clean water, toothbrushes, showers, or a place to sleep.

“Our federal government is forcing these children to be held in the most degrading, horrific conditions imaginable, while they fear for their safety and are separated from their loved ones,” said Nessel.  “I am ashamed and appalled at the unconscionable and callous treatment of innocent children and I refuse to stand down when we have the power of federal law on our side. I didn’t run for this office so I could twiddle my thumbs and watch idly on the sidelines while the Trump Administration treats toddlers worse than war criminals.”

For more than two decades, the federal government has been required to meet minimum standards for the facilities in which immigrant children may be confined. These minimum standards, established in the Flores Settlement Agreement, require, among other things, that CBP facilities holding children following arrest must be safe and sanitary. They must also provide children with specific services, including access to toilets and sinks, drinking water and food, medical assistance, and adequate supervision.

However, CBP is failing to comply with its obligations under the court-monitored Flores Settlement Agreement. Children are being denied access to safe and sanitary conditions, clean drinking water, and medication. In addition, young children are irresponsibly and dangerously tasked with the care of toddlers and infants. This treatment inflicts irreparable harm on children under CBP custody, where hospitalizations continue to occur. The federal government’s blatant disregard of its obligations under the Flores Settlement Agreement – which also include prompt release or placement at a state-licensed facility – conflicts with federal statutory requirements that immigration authorities consider “the best interest of the child” when taking action with respect to unaccompanied immigrant children.

The coalition, led by California and Massachusetts, includes the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the brief is available here.