WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has been fighting to undo the rules that dictate how U.S. Immigration treats migrant children who enter the country illegally. Those rules were established by a court agreement called the Flores settlement.
But the administration is employing a new strategy.
Margaret Huang, the executive director of Amnesty International, said during a recent visit to the U.S.-Mexico border the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Jonathan Hayes, unexpectedly flew to the border to meet the humanitarian delegation.
“He let us know that he believes that the Flores rules and regulations don’t apply to ORR shelters,” Huang said.
Hayes reportedly told Amnesty International that ORR does not run detention centers; that’s why he believes the rules don’t apply to his agency.
“It might be a better detention than what CBP offers, or what ICE offers, but they don’t have a choice,” Huang said.
The Department of Health and Human Services said Amnesty International got it wrong: HHS said the Flores settlement does apply.
But HHS said it believes the settlement does not specify a 20-day rule for holding migrant children. The HHS also said certain Flores rules do not apply to providers housing unaccompanied migrant children.
“It’s been a top objective of the administration to say they should not be bound by any rules regarding the humane treatment of children,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said.
Merkley said the rules set by Flores require appropriate nutrition, medical care and living conditions for all migrant children.
“Why would anything but a very evil administration oppose these basics for the humane treatment of children?” Merkley said.
Legal challenges continue on exactly what the Flores settlement requires.