Press Release

Attorney General Ellison defends human rights of children in civil immigration detention

Joins coalition of 21 AGs in filing amicus brief asking for immediate relief from threats to children’s health and welfare

July 10, 2019 (SAINT PAUL) — In the wake of eyewitness reports that children in immigration detention centers along the U.S.–Mexico border are being denied basic sanitary needs, and in the wake of federal government attempts to justify those denials, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today joined a coalition of 21 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief to defend the human rights of children in civil immigration detention in the United States. In the brief filed with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the coalition urges the court to grant immediate relief to remedy the imminent threat to the health and welfare of immigrant children detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Under the Flores Settlement Agreement of 1997, children have the right to safe and sanitary conditions in detention and prompt release or placement at a state-licensed facility. However, under the Trump Administration, immigrant children have been held for weeks in inhumane conditions without access to basic necessities like soap, clean water, toothbrushes, showers, or a place to sleep.

“Minnesotans are decent people: they just want everyone to be able to live with the same dignity and respect they want for themselves. This really means everyone, including the most vulnerable among us — immigrant children that the federal government is holding in filthy detention centers after forcibly separating them from their parents,” Attorney General Ellison said. “I joined this brief on behalf of the decent people of Minnesota who are outraged that their own government is perpetrating this cruelty in their name.”

For more than two decades, the federal government has been required to meet minimum standards for the facilities in which children who are immigrants may be confined. These minimum standards, established in the Flores Settlement Agreement, require, among other things, that CBP facilities holding children following arrest must be safe and sanitary. They must also provide children with enumerated services, including access to toilets and sinks, drinking water and food, medical assistance, and adequate supervision.

However, CBP is blatantly failing to comply with its obligations under the court-monitored Flores Settlement Agreement. Children are being denied access to safe and sanitary conditions, clean drinking water, and medication. In addition, CBP dangerously and irresponsibly tasks children with the care of toddlers and infants. This treatment inflicts irreparable harm on children under CBP custody, where hospitalizations continue to occur. The federal government’s blatant disregard of its obligations under the Flores Settlement Agreement conflicts with federal statutory requirements that immigration authorities consider “the best interest of the child” when taking action with respect to unaccompanied migrant children.

In submitting the brief, Attorney General Ellison joined Attorney General of Xavier Becerra of California and Attorney General Maura Healey of Massachusetts, who led the brief, along with the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

A copy of the brief is available on the website of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.