Success and Impact

Judge gives final approval to landmark settlements that expand the rights of youth in immigration custody
Agreements significantly expand the rights of youth with disabilities, those prescribed psychotropic meds, and those seeking legal assistance

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OAKLAND, California — A federal judge today approved the terms of three landmark settlements that significantly expand the rights of youth in federal immigration custody.

Today's court order finalizes settlement agreements that were preliminarily approved in January in Lucas R. v. Azar, a 2018 case that challenged the federal government’s unconstitutional treatment of children in immigration custody. The case was filed on behalf of youth in immigration custody by the National Center for Youth Law, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, UC Davis Immigration Clinic, and Cooley LLP.

The three groundbreaking settlements focus specifically on three classes of youth in immigration custody: youth with disabilities, youth prescribed psychotropic medication, and youth seeking assistance from legal counsel. Together, the settlement agreements represent a fundamental shift in how the federal government treats these young people, ensuring they receive the services and support mandated by law, while also caring for their well-being.

Key details of the settlements include:

  • The Disability Settlement: This settlement compels the government, for the first time, to identify and track youth in its custody with disabilities. It mandates the provision of evaluations for hospitalized youth, those considered for more restrictive placements, and those requesting disability evaluations. It also requires the creation and implementation of service plans to ensure that youth can fully engage in programs, with no unnecessary delays in family reunification due to a youth’s disability. Additional support and services must be offered to prevent youth with disabilities from being placed in restrictive placements.
  • The Psychotropic Medication Settlement: This agreement requires the government, for the first time, to follow an informed consent protocol, ensuring that youth and their families can meaningfully participate in the consent process. It also requires informed consent from a youth, parent, or authorized consenter before administering psychotropic medication, and monitoring and external review must be provided for youth prescribed multiple medications or medication at high dosages.
  • The Access to Counsel Settlement: This settlement ensures that youth have unobstructed access to attorneys, particularly as they navigate issues related to their placement, release, and the administration of psychotropic medications. The government will also be required to provide attorneys with necessary client documents within specified timeframes.


In November 2018, the National Center for Youth Law, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, UC Davis Immigration Clinic, and Cooley LLP filed Lucas R. v. Azar, which alleges violations of rights afforded to unaccompanied immigrant children under the U.S. Constitution, federal statutes, and the Flores Settlement Agreement. 

The case sought to deepen and expand protections for five separate classes of the most vulnerable children in custody, including: children with disabilities, children that get stepped up to more restrictive facilities, children who are not promptly released to sponsors, children who are administered psychotropic medications, and children whose lawyers are obstructed from comprehensive representation. In November 2022, the Court entered a preliminary injunction that protected the due process rights of two of the classes: children placed in restrictive facilities and children denied release to their sponsors. 

For more information on the case history and to review the settlement agreements regarding children’s disability rights, psychotropic medication rights, and access to counsel rights, please visit: