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Executive Order Threatens ‘Flores’ Protections for Undocumented Children

If the Trump administration ends the Flores Amendment, undocumented immigrants in Arkansas will have less protections, at a time when many are threatened with detainment and deportation. (Twenty20)
If the Trump administration ends the Flores Amendment, undocumented immigrants in Arkansas will have less protections, at a time when many are threatened with detainment and deportation. (Twenty20)
October 15, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — At least three immigrant detention sites are operating in Arkansas, although it is not known how many immigrants are being held at this time, according to the organization Freedom for Immigrants. But while they remain in custody, federal recommendations could dismantle constitutional protections for children held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Known as the "Flores Settlement,” it requires that the government, without unnecessary delay, release children from immigration detention to their parents, other adult relatives or licensed programs. Shadi Houshyar, director of early childhood and child welfare initiatives with Families USA, said proposed regulations would terminate so-called Flores protections 45 days after they're finalized.

"It's going to allow the government to hold immigrant families indefinitely. It's going to allow them to hold more families,” Houshyar said. “It's going to remove some basic protections for children. It's going to weaken protections for unaccompanied children who are here without their parents or relatives."

The administration's proposal has a 60-day comment period with a November 6 deadline. Flores advocates say the proposed changes to the agreement will expand detention centers and weaken safety regulations.

According to the American Immigration Council, undocumented immigrants in Arkansas paid an estimated $62 million in state and local taxes in 2014. Houshyar said the lack of basic standards related to food, housing and safety in detention facilities makes the proposal dangerous for children.

"You're now seeing an increase in the number of kids that are being held in these facilities,” she said. “And then you're seeing, at the same time, the potential that Flores will no longer be there. And so some of those protections that kids had are going to go away."

As the number of children held in detentions increases, federal protections are waning. This month, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, introduced the "No Internment Camps Act" to end the use of detention centers for immigrant families waiting for asylum hearings.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - AR