Migrant children must get basic hygiene supplies, court rules in response to Herring brief

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A federal appeals court panel has ruled that the government must provide detained migrant children with basic hygiene supplies such as toothbrushes and sleeping mats, responding to a brief filed by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and other state AGs.

Following reports in June of inhumane conditions at Border Patrol facilities along the border with Mexico, Herring and his colleagues filed an amicus brief urging the court to grant immediate relief to fix the conditions in these facilities and make sure the children who were detained there were provided basic personal hygiene products.

The case gained momentum when when a group of lawyers told reporters they had observed distressed migrant children held in cramped, dirty conditions and without sufficient food or clean water at a Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas.

“The way children have been held in these disgusting, inhumane conditions at the border is reprehensible,” Herring said when the amicus brief was filed in July. “We cannot stand by and allow the Trump Administration to continue to harm these children and ignore the protections granted to them. The way these children have been treated in these detention centers is not who we are as a country and it must be stopped.”

Herring said that besides allowing the unsanitary conditions, the CBP “dangerously and irresponsibly” tasks children with the care of toddlers and infants.

“This treatment inflicts irreparable harm on children under CBP custody, where hospitalizations continue to occur. The federal government’s blatant disregard of its obligations … conflicts with federal statutory requirements that immigration authorities consider ‘the best interest of the child’ when taking action with respect to unaccompanied migrant children,” he said.

For more than two decades, the brief noted, the federal government has been required to meet minimum standards for the facilities in which immigrant children may be confined. These minimum standards, established in the Flores Settlement Agreement, require, among other things, that CBP facilities holding children following arrest must be safe and sanitary. They must also provide children with enumerated services, including access to toilets and sinks, drinking water and food, medical assistance, and adequate supervision.

In submitting the brief, Attorney General Herring joined the Attorneys General of California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

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Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.