The Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Migration has “condemned” the final rule published by the Department of Homeland Security last week “relating to the care and custody of immigrant children under the Flores Settlement Agreement.”
“This rule will have heartbreaking consequences for immigrant children – those whom Pope Francis has deemed ‘the most vulnerable group’ among migrants,” said Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin in a communiqué posted on the Bishops’ website.
The 2015 court-ordered Flores rule said migrants with children must be released after 20 days, even if officials suspect the migrants are ineligible for asylum, a situation that encouraged many immigrants to skip their court hearing and settle in the country illegally. The new DHS regulation will allow border agencies to detain migrants and children for multiple weeks until their legal claims for asylum can be completed.
“The Flores agreement sets forth foundational principles and critical protections regarding the care, custody, and release of immigrant children who are in federal custody, including the general requirements that they be housed in the least restrictive setting and in licensed facilities for childcare,” Bishop Vásquez said in his statement.
The new rule “will drastically undermine existing Flores protections for immigrant children in federal custody,” he said.
“It is an attempt by the Administration to circumvent existing obligations and undermine critical protections for these children,” the bishop continued. “This rule will jeopardize the well-being and humane treatment of immigrant children in federal custody and will result in children suffering long-lasting consequences of being held for prolonged periods in family detention.”
“We oppose this rule that we believe is unlawful and inhumane. Countless children will be harmed by this new rule and this is simply not acceptable,” Vásquez concluded.