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Sens. Grassley, Tillis, and Cruz Urge Congress to Amend Flores Agreement

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Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) publicly called on Congress to amend the Flores v. Reno consent decree Sunday in an USA Today op-ed. The original Flores decree required the federal government to release Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) from detention facilities within 20 days, allowing them to live in open settings such as foster homes or other placements.

However, a Federal District Court ruling expanded the Flores agreement in 2015 to “children with their families.” This forced a difficult choice on the government, to either release children after 20 days while keeping their parents in detention centers or release entire families of illegal aliens into the country.

“That decision, which was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, effectively forces federal immigration authorities to make a stark choice: separate families by releasing only the children after 20 days or keep families together and release them all into the U.S. Neither of these options is a good choice. We should not have to choose between tearing children from their parents and enforcing our nation’s lawful immigration system.”

Additionally, the Senators emphasized their approval for the agreement’s “good parts,” which require immigration authorities to uphold standards for humane treatment for detained aliens, suitable living conditions, and proper care of UAC’s in federal custody. They added that Congress’ failure to address a correct way to process illegal alien families is what enabled the California federal court to order the reimplementation of “catch and release” policies.

“It’s important to remember that no one wants to get rid of the good parts of Flores. For example, Flores required, among other things, certain minimum standards of care for unaccompanied alien children while in federal custody. No one disagrees that everyone in federal custody should be treated humanely, which is why Congress unanimously passed legislation in 2008 codifying many of these standards for unaccompanied children.

“But Congress has yet to address how to process families detained because they came here illegally. As a consequence, a single federal court can – and has – ordered us to return to the failed “catch and release” policies that have caused tens of thousands of families to make the dangerous journey to cross our southern border. By fixing the current immigration laws and legislatively modifying the Flores decree as it applies to family units, we can solve these problems in a humane and fair way.”

In closing, the Senators laid out a three-step “path forward” for Congress to amend the Flores decree.

“… First, Congress needs to make clear that the Flores consent decree does not apply to family units. The Flores consent decree and the standards of care required for unaccompanied minor children would remain in effect, but federal authorities would have the ability to keep families together pending the outcome of their immigration case.

“Second, Congress needs to codify the high humane standards we expect families to be treated with while they are kept in federal custody in family residential centers. The public is right to be concerned that individuals may receive inadequate care and shelter, and Congress should ensure that no one is treated with any less dignity than they deserve.

“Third, and finally, Congress should authorize and appropriate money for more immigration judges, so that cases can be adjudicated and resolved quickly. Keeping families in federal custody temporarily is an appropriate policy solution to this crisis, but only if cases are resolved expeditiously.

“Fixing these problems will end this crisis and return integrity to our nation’s lawful immigration system.”

For more on this story, see USA Today .

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