Reform Movement Decries Administration's Plan to Indefinitely Detain Children and Families

August 21, 2019

In response to the Trump Administration’s decision to terminate the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement including its requirements that the government hold children in the “least restrictive” setting possible, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner released the following statement on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the wider Reform Movement institutions:

Today’s decision by the Trump Administration effectively terminating the Flores Settlement Agreement puts untold immigrant children and families at risk for lifelong physical, emotional, and mental harm. This decision further damages an already dysfunctional immigration system that the Administration appears to intentionally be making worse. Instead of enabling the growth of immigration detention, we urge the government to invest in alternatives to detention, allowing families to stay together in communities, not cages.

Reports of squalid conditions in existing detention facilities – exposed by the government’s own inspectors – are cause for alarm. Imposing the burden of even more detainees who will be held for indefinite lengths of time, as today’s Administration’s decision will do, will worsen an already struggling detention system. Children will be at particular risk; studies have shown that the mitigating factor of parental presence does not negate the detrimental impacts of detention on children’s physical and emotional health.

Leviticus teaches, “When a foreigner resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him (19:33).” Despite the Administration’s claims that detention standards will be adequate, recent history shows that to date, the Administration has not upheld such standards. Families – adults and children alike – will face wrongs because of today’s decision.

We will support legal efforts to overturn today’s decision and we urge President Trump and congress to work towards solutions to our broken immigration system that would treat children and families with dignity and respect for their health and safety.