Judge Questions Trump Administration Lawyer Over Migrant Children

"You mean there are circumstances where a person doesn't need to have a toothbrush, toothpaste, and soap for days?" A Trump administration lawyer argued that migrant children detained at the southern border don't need basic sanitary items — and they can sleep on concrete.

Trump Admin: Soap, Toothbrushes Not Required for Detained Kids

The Trump administration is appealing a 2017 district court ruling that found the government violated the Flores settlement — which requires safe and sanitary conditions for children detained at the border — by not providing toiletries and adequate sleeping conditions. The administration claims the government is not required to provide migrant children in custody on the border with soap, toothbrushes, or satisfactory bedding, a lawyer for the Trump Justice Department insisted in court. A consent decree guaranteeing “safe and sanitary” conditions, the government contended, is too vague to be enforceable. The assertions left a panel of three judges for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals incredulous, with one stating plainly: “I find that inconceivable that the government would say that.”

The Flores Settlement Agreement is a court settlement, in place for over twenty years, that has set restrictions on the length of time and conditions under which children can be incarcerated in immigration detention. In 2018, the Trump Administration proposed regulations that seek to terminate the Flores Settlement Agreement’s legal protections for children, including the provision that children must be transferred to a non-secure, licensed facility within three to five days of apprehension, which has been interpreted to allow for an extension of up to 20 days in times of “emergency” or “influx.” The propositioned regulations include a number of policies which, if implemented, would allow the government to incarcerate more families for even longer periods of time.

In an appeal to a 2017 district court ruling, the Trump administration is arguing it shouldn’t be required to provide toiletries or sufficient sleeping conditions to children detained at the border. All three judges appeared unconvinced during the hearing in San Francisco, in which the Trump administration challenged previous legal findings that it is violating a landmark class action settlement by mistreating undocumented immigrant children at U.S. detention facilities.