California leads multistate lawsuit over migrant children detention rules – POLITICO
California will lead a multistate lawsuit against the Trump administration challenging a proposed federal regulation that would lift court-granted protections for young migrant detainees, allowing immigration authorities to detain children indefinitely — in quarters they see fit.
The lawsuit, to be filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, challenges the Trump administration rule seeking to invalidate the 1997 Flores settlement, which sets minimum detention rules for migrant children. It says minors cannot be held indefinitely and children must be placed in the least restrictive setting possible.
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California, along with 18 other states and the District of Columbia, argue the rule would shatter minimum protections for children. President Donald Trump and administration officials are facing intense scrutiny and widespread public backlash for allowing migrant children to be held in unsafe, unsanitary conditions that public and mental health experts say pose extreme harm to their physical and mental well-being.
The Trump administration rule risks prolonged detention that would cause irreparable harm to migrant children, their families and California communities accepting children upon release from federal custody, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra argued. The complaint will contend it violates migrants’ due-process rights and interferes with California’s ability to ensure their health, safety and welfare needs are being met, undermining the state’s ability to ensure proper conditions at detention facilities.
Becerra, at a press conference Monday at the state Department of Justice, called the conditions “jail-like.”
“Too often they’re being held without sufficient food, health or even medical care,” Becerra said. “Children have been forced to go without basic hygiene products that we all take for granted like soap and toothbrushes and they are being held in these conditions for much longer than is ever necessary.”
“The actions by this administration aren’t just morally reprehensible … they’re illegal,” Becerra added. “Children don’t become subhuman simply because they are migrants.”
The new federal rule, Becerra said, would also result in “the vast expansion of family detention centers,” that are not state-licensed and “have historically caused increased trauma in children.” He argues prolonged detention would lead to “significant long-term negative health consequences.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom, who joined Becerra in announcing the lawsuit, said the decision to take legal action safeguarding Flores settlement protections is personal to him as a father of four. He also said California is uniquely positioned given the size of the state’s immigrant population and economy.
The state also sees the largest number of unaccompanied children — around 6,000 to 7,000 per year, according to Department of Justice officials. They are placed in federally sanctioned foster care settings, state officials said.
“This is not something we brought on the Trump administration; the Trump administration brought this on itself,” Newsom said, noting that more than a quarter of California residents are foreign-born. “This notion that you can intern children in this state is perverse, unconscionable and clearly in violation of Flores.”
Newsom sought to draw contrast with the president and actions his administration has taken that could harm childrens’ health and safety. He touted the state’s focus on identifying childhood trauma that can manifest later in life in worse health outcomes and potentially violence. Addressing what’s known as “adverse childhood experiences” early-on is the primary mission for California Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris.
“Policies of this administration are exacerbating the early childhood trauma of young children,” Newsom said.
The lawsuit is the latest front in the tit-for-tat battle between California — home to the largest population of undocumented immigrants in the country — and the president, and brings the state’s tally of lawsuits against the Trump administration to 57. The president, recently telling reporters that the rule would “make it almost impossible for people to come to our country illegally,” has sought to curb the flow of migrants into the country as thousands have fled home countries seeking asylum in the United States.
California earlier this month sued the Trump administration to block a new federal immigration rule that penalizes legal immigrants who rely on public assistance programs for health care, food and housing.
Becerra on Monday said he has also filed a temporary injunction to prevent the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule from taking effect. Newsom blasted the public charge rule as “nothing more than family separation by another name.”
This report first appeared on POLITICO California Pro on Aug. 26, 2019.
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