Skip Navigation
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul
Home | Careers | Press Room | Opinions | Español | Other Languages | Contact Us

August 27, 2019


Chicago — Attorney General Kwame Raoul, as part of a coalition of 19 attorneys general, today filed a lawsuit opposing a new federal rule circumventing the Flores Settlement Agreement, which has governed the treatment of children in immigration custody since 1997.

In the complaint filed before the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Raoul and the coalition argue that the new rule eliminates several critical protections guaranteed by the Flores Settlement Agreement. In particular, the prolonged detention risked by the rule would cause irreparable harm to children, their families, and the communities that accept them upon their release from federal custody.

“The federal government is tearing children apart from their families and now wants to strip away protections these children have while in detention,” Raoul said. “Every American should be outraged by our government’s treatment of migrant children at the border, and I am proud to continue to stand with my counterparts to fight for their health and welfare.”

Raoul and the coalition argue that the federal government’s final rule interferes with the states’ ability to help ensure the health, safety, and welfare of children by undermining state licensing requirements for facilities where children are held. The rule would result in the vast expansion of family detention centers, which are not state licensed facilities and have historically caused increased trauma in children. It would also lead to prolonged detention for children with significant long-term negative health consequences. In addition, Raoul argues the rule violates both the Administrative Procedure Act and the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Flores Settlement Agreement stems from a class action lawsuit filed before the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in 1985 in response to substandard conditions of confinement for unaccompanied immigrant children. The lawsuit sought to establish standards for how the federal government should handle the detention of minors. The plaintiffs expressed significant concerns about the use of strip searches, forcing children to share living quarters and bathrooms with adults of the opposite sex, and a prohibition against releasing minors to non-guardian relatives, leading to prolonged and cruel detention of children. Following litigation that moved through the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court, the federal government eventually reached a settlement with class counsel in 1997 resulting, among other things, in:

  • Releasing children “without unnecessary delay” to their parents, legal guardians, other adult relatives, another individual designated by the parents/guardians, or a licensed program willing to accept legal custody.
  • Placing children in the “least restrictive setting” appropriate to the minor’s age and special needs.
  • Establishing standards for safe and sanitary conditions of confinement for children in immigration detention.

Joining Raoul in the lawsuit are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.


Return to August 2019 Press Releases

go to top of page

© 2020 Illinois Attorney General HomePrivacy Policy Contact Us