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Children are still being separated from parents while in border custody, independent monitor finds

In 2023, Dr. Paul Wise, Stanford pediatrician and professor, was appointed by a federal court to monitor compliance with a July 2022 agreement in the Flores case regarding U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities. Dr. Wise issued monitoring reports in January,  July, September and November 2023 which highlighted areas in need of “urgent remediation,” documented fundamental concerns regarding CBP’s medical systems, and noted that CBP had been regularly separating children from their parents while in custody, providing little to no opportunity for contact between parent and child during that time. Dr. Wise’s term as Juvenile Care Monitor ended in December 2023, at which time Andrea Sheridan Ordin was appointed as Juvenile Care Monitor for six months. 

This week, the Flores Monitor, Andrea Sheridan Ordin, filed a fifth monitoring report, which revealed that children in the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso sector Juvenile Priority Facilities (JPF) continue to be held separately from their parents – despite the census at both facilities being “significantly below capacity” with “no overcrowding was observed in any area.”

The report notes that at one facility, CBP was not providing children and parents with required visits in custody or adequately informing them of their right to such visits, stating:

“The failure to effectively communicate visitation rights to families in custody and to implement routine visitation opportunities at the Donna Facility, even during times of low census, stands out as an area of continued concern.”

The report also highlights the prolonged detention of families in CBP custody:

“CBP data reflects that in the Southwest Border, many children in families are routinely held for more than 72 hours. The majority of children in custody over 72 hours were in custody between 3 to 5 days, however in January, 61 minors were in custody between 6 to 16 days, and in February, 54 children were in custody between 6 to 16 days. The large number of children in families in custody from 6 to 16 days at a time when the census was comfortably below capacity is of concern.”

The report also noted that CBP is still not providing age-appropriate food to very young children (2-5 years old). The issue of inappropriate food was first raised in January 2023, has been flagged in every subsequent report as an area of concern, and has still not been fixed. While the report indicated that there is a plan to begin providing age-appropriate food, until it is clear that this plan has been implemented, we remain concerned.

Over the past 26 years, National Center for Youth Law attorneys who serve as Flores counsel have witnessed the preventable and immense suffering of children in government custody. This suffering will not end until CBP stops detaining children entirely.