Attorney General Balderas Files Lawsuit Opposing Trump Administration’s Rule Allowing Prolonged Detention of Children

August 26, 2019

Contact: Matt Baca (505) 270-7148

Santa Fe, NM—Attorney General Hector Balderas today announced he is filing a lawsuit opposing
the Trump Administration’s new rule circumventing the Flores Settlement Agreement, which has
governed the treatment of children in immigration custody since 1997. In the complaint before the
U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the coalition argues that the rule
eliminates several critical protections guaranteed by the Flores Settlement Agreement. In
particular, the prolonged detention risked by the rule would cause irreparable harm to children,
their families, and the California communities that accept them upon their release from federal
“The Trump administration continues to harm children and families with un-American policies
that risk these children’s health and safety,” said Attorney General Balderas. “I will continue to
fight to protect the safety of these children.”
In the complaint, the coalition argues that the Trump Administration’s final rule interferes with
the states’ ability to help ensure the health, safety, and welfare of children by undermining state
licensing requirements for facilities where children are held. The rule would result in the vast
expansion of family detention centers, which are not state licensed facilities and have historically
caused increased trauma in children. The rule will lead to prolonged detention for children with
significant long-term negative health consequences. In addition, the Attorneys General argue the
rule violates both the Administrative Procedure Act and the due process clause of the Fifth
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The Flores Settlement Agreement stems from a class action lawsuit filed before the U.S. District
Court for the Central District of California in 1985 in response to substandard conditions of
confinement for unaccompanied immigrant children. The lawsuit sought to establish standards for
how the federal government should handle the detention of minors, including plaintiff Jenny
Lisette Flores. In particular, the plaintiffs expressed significant concerns about the use of strip
searches, forcing children to share living quarters and bathrooms with adults of the opposite sex,
and that minors could not be released to non-guardian relatives, leading to prolonged and cruel
detention of children. Following litigation that moved through the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of
Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, the federal government eventually reached a settlement with
class counsel in 1997 resulting, among other things, in:
• Release of children “without unnecessary delay” to their parents, legal guardians, other
adult relatives, another individual designated by the parents/guardians, or a licensed
program willing to accept legal custody;
• Placing children in the “least restrictive setting” appropriate to the minor’s age and special
needs; and
• Establishment of standards for safe and sanitary conditions of confinement for children in
immigration detention.
Attorney General Balderas in filing the lawsuit joins the Attorneys General of California,
Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada,
New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington,
and the District of Columbia

Most Viewed