In 1985, Jenny Flores, an immigrant minor from El Salvador was apprehended at the border for illegal entry by the Immigration and Nationality Service (INS) and placed in a juvenile detention center. She spent two months waiting for a deportation hearing.
This facility didn’t have any educational and very few recreational activities. The bathrooms and sleeping quarters had to be shared with other adult female and male detainees.
Later, a lawsuit was filed on Flores’ behalf trying to establish a policy to benefit detained children in similar circumstances. This case worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. It found that the release procedures did not violate the minor’s due process rights and the U.S. Attorney was acting within the law.
The Court reasoned that this situation was legal custody and not detention because these children were not detained in correctional facilities. It also reasoned that it met the state’s licensing requirements for foster, group and shelter care related services to these children.
The Supreme Court sent this case back to a lower court.
During 1997, the Flores settlement agreement was reached between the Clinton Administration’s Justice Department and an organization representing these children. It established a nationwide policy for the treatment, detention and release of children in the custody of the INS, now more commonly known as the Department of Homeland Security.
This policy required that these children be held in the least restrictive surroundings that was appropriate to their age and to provide special needs to protect them. It also required that these children were to be released from DHS custody without unnecessary delay to a parent, legal guardian, adult relative or an individual designated by the parent.
During 2014, under other applicable provisions, these children may not be detained without unnecessary delay in secure facilities for more than 72 hours or three days, except in situations where they might be a danger to themselves and/or others.
Silvestre Moreno, Mercedes