On Friday, September 27, 2019, Judge Dolly Gee, slapped down the Trump Administration’s attempt to replace the Flores protections for immigrant children and their families through regulation. The Judge flat-out declared it a violation of the law. In her closing statement of the ruling Judge Gee of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, in Jenny L. Flores, et al. v. William P. Barr, et al., concluded with:

“The Flores Agreement is a binding contract and a consent decree. It is a final, binding judgment that was never appealed. It is a creature of the parties’ own contractual agreements and is analyzed as a contract for purposes of enforcement. Defendants cannot simply ignore the dictates of the consent decree merely because they no longer agree with its approach as a matter of policy… Defendants cannot simply impose their will by promulgating regulations that abrogate the consent decree’s most basic tenets. That violates the rule of law. And that this Court cannot permit.”

The Flores settlement was agreed to in 1997. It outlines specific protections for immigrant children while in U.S. custody. Its most well-known provision, recently, prohibits the detention of children for more than 20 days. On August 21, 2019, the Administration announced a final new rule that would overturn the agreement. The regulation altered not just the 20-day limit but allowed a new federal licensing standard that would govern the operation of family detention facilities, bypassing state standards.

The Administration implemented the 2019 regulations arguing that a 2001 agreement allowed for regulations, and they were taking up that agreement. Judge Gee, however, found that this 2001 agreement was to codify “the relevant and substantive terms” of the Flores agreement. Judge Gee stated, “not only do they not implement the Flores Agreement, they intentionally subvert it.” The ruling also strikes down the regulations that allowed the creation of a separate licensing standard for “family unit detention” facilities.

In short, Judge Gee’s decision is a permanent injunction against the Administration implementation of the new regulations.

About the Author:

John Sciamanna is CWLA's Vice President of Public Policy.

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