The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is deeply disturbed by reports of unaccompanied children being held under the same conditions as adult prisoners and juvenile detainees. None of these children have committed a crime, but they are still being held in Customs and Border Protection detention centers for sometimes longer than 72 hours in violation of the Flores Settlement Agreement of 1997 (Flores), which addresses the length and conditions under which children can be held in detention.
Due to the physical and mental stress of their journey to the United States and their separation from loved ones, these children are exceptionally vulnerable. The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is fully responsible for their care. As Americans, we have a legal and moral obligation to ensure the safety and well-being of these children while they are in our care.
Protection and Advocacy (P&A) agencies, which make up NDRN, are monitoring immigrant detention facilities, and have noted significant concerns about the amount of time children with disabilities are held before being released to sponsors and the conditions of detention facilities.
NDRN appreciates that ORR is proactively working to address the needs of children in detention. There is no time to waste. We look forward to collaborating with ORR to ensure children are released to sponsors and are provided compassionate care in the interim that meets legal requirements, including the Flores Agreement, provides for disability-related needs, and treats these children as we would treat our own.
“The P&As have fought to keep children with disabilities out of institutions for over 40 years and we will continue to do so,” said NDRN Executive Director Curt Decker. “Congress has recognized the important monitoring work of the P&As and has encouraged our network and ORR to work in a collaborative manner to ensure children with disabilities within ORR are protected. We are confident that this collaboration will result in better protections for unaccompanied children while they are in our care.” continued Decker.
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The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the Network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.