Federal Judge Considers Rolling Back Judicial Oversight for Child Migrants

The Biden administration in May asked a federal court to partially lift a decades-old court settlement that requires judicial oversight to ensure the safety of illegal alien minors while in US custody, arguing that new rules were needed.

The Department of Health and Human Services in late April published a new rule safeguarding illegal alien minors that is set to take effect on July 1.

However, attorneys representing the minors are seeking to block the federal government’s new rule, arguing that it does not do enough to ensure the children’s safety while they are in US custody.

In a hearing in a Los Angeles federal court on June 21, attorneys representing the Biden administration argued that the new rules were needed to partially replace the 1997 Flores agreement which they argued has outlived its purpose.

Currently, those representing illegal alien minors are given broad authority to interview staff and other detainees in custody facilities and can register complaints with the court, which has the authority under Flores to order changes.

Since the 2014 surge in unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border, arrests of illegal alien children traveling alone have skyrocketed, topping 130,000 in 2023. The vast majority are released by Health and Human Services into the custody of close relatives in the United States pending immigration hearings.

The Biden administration has requested that the court terminate the part of the Flores agreement that requires HHS to take custody of unaccompanied minors within 72 of their apprehension by Border Patrol.

Health and Human Services maintains that the new rule taking effect in July would meet or exceed the standards laid out in Flores.

However, the attorneys for unaccompanied minors disagree, arguing that the administration failed to establish a regulatory framework in states that have either revoked or planned to revoke the licenses of facilities caring for unaccompanied minors.

Children’s Rights Deputy Litigation Director Leecia Welch said that given the surge in unaccompanied minors in the last two years, the court oversight laid out in Flores was needed now more than ever. She said there may come a time when Flores should end, “but now is not that time.”