STATEMENT: Overturning the Flores Settlement Will Directly Harm Children and Families and Must Be Stopped by the Courts

Washington, D.C. — Today, the U.S. departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services released a joint final rule to overturn the three-decade-old Flores settlement and allow for the indefinite incarceration of children and families. In response, Philip E. Wolgin, managing director of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress, released the following statement:

Every time we think we’ve seen the low point of the Trump administration’s cruelty toward immigrants, children, and families, it turns around and takes an even more punitive measure. Coming just days after the public charge rule, a radical attempt to slash legal immigration and penalize working families, this latest rule will ensure that children as young as toddlers will be locked up indefinitely, and without any of the commonsense protections for kids in detention that the Flores settlement sets out. 

Make no mistake: This rule will do nothing to deal with the issues pushing children and families to seek protections at our borders. And as we have calculated, the rule could cost up to an astronomical $1.3 billion each year. Given how this rule diverges from the original Flores settlement, its protections, and its preference for release rather than incarceration—and given the steep costs—the courts should step in immediately and stop this rule from being implemented.

Katie Hamm, CAP’s vice president for Early Childhood Policy added:

Parents—regardless of their nationality, race, religion, or immigration status—want the best for their children. Providing safe and nurturing care for children is a value that spans across all cultures. Children who arrive in the United States at the border are among the most vulnerable, which is why the Flores settlement was put in place decades ago. The Flores settlement provides basic protections for children to ensure that they are well cared for until they can be placed in the custody of a trusted adult. The Flores settlement has spanned numerous Republican and Democratic administrations, demonstrating that the obligation to protect children with the highest needs transcends political ideology.

This rule violates our collective values and years of precedent to keep children out of harm’s way. The Flores settlement requires that children in federal custody receive appropriate care and services in licensed facilities designed to hold children. Already, we have seen the harmful effects of the cruel conditions that resulted from the Trump administration illegally holding children in overcrowded and unsanitary border patrol facilities without access to basic needs and care. Removing legal protections for children will remove any protection or standard of care, resulting in potentially irreparable harm to their health and development.

For more information or to speak to an expert, please contact Julia Cusick at or 202-495-3682.