What Is the Flores Agreement of 1997

The Flores Agreement of 1997 is a landmark legal settlement that governs how the United States government treats unaccompanied minors who are detained at the border.

In 1985, a class-action lawsuit was filed against the federal government on behalf of Jenny Lisette Flores, a 15-year-old girl from El Salvador who had been detained by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in California. Flores had been apprehended while attempting to enter the United States illegally and was placed in a juvenile detention facility, where she was stripped searched, housed with unrelated adult males, and denied access to legal counsel.

The lawsuit eventually led to the Flores v. Meese decision in 1993, which established that the federal government must release unaccompanied minors from immigration detention as quickly as possible and in the least restrictive setting appropriate to their age and needs. The decision also required that detained minors be provided with adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and education while in custody.

However, the Flores decision did not provide a specific timeline for the release of minors or address the issue of family detention. In response to these issues, the Flores Agreement was reached in September 1997 between the federal government and several advocacy groups representing detained minors.

Under the terms of the Flores Agreement, minors must be released from immigration detention within 20 days, unless they are released to a parent, legal guardian, or other appropriate adult. If a minor is not released within 20 days, they must be transferred to a licensed facility that is not considered a secure facility. The Agreement also requires that minors be given access to legal representation, education, and adequate food, clothing, and medical care.

The Flores Agreement has been at the center of controversy in recent years, as the Trump administration sought to dismantle its protections and increase family detention at the border. In 2019, the Department of Homeland Security issued a new rule that would have allowed the indefinite detention of families and weakened the Flores Agreement`s protections. However, the rule was blocked by a federal judge, who ruled that it violated the terms of the Agreement.

Overall, the Flores Agreement has played a crucial role in protecting the rights and wellbeing of unaccompanied minors who are detained at the border. While it has faced challenges and attempts to undermine its protections, it remains an essential legal framework for ensuring that minors are treated with dignity and respect while in immigration custody.