Don't blame Flores Agreement for migration wave, attorneys and experts tell court

By Graham Kates

/ CBS News

Extending the detention of migrant families

Attorneys on Friday struck back against a claim long made by the U.S. government that a landmark 1997 court settlement about the care of migrant children in custody has caused kids and families to flow north from Central America.

Their filing and accompanying depositions by immigration experts is the latest salvo over the Flores Agreement, which set standards for how unaccompanied migrant children and families with kids apprehended together must be sheltered by the government.

In a previous filing in the case from August 31, the government claimed that immigration has changed in the 22 years since the Flores Agreement was first established. The government also claimed that the agreement itself led to an increase in children and families coming to the U.S.

Trending News

It further argued that those changes, coupled with a final regulation posted in August that would allow for the indefinite detainment of children, should render the Flores Agreement moot.

Lawyers wrote in Friday's opposition brief that the government is attempting through its August 31 filing to "light a match" to the Flores Agreement, but said the filing relied on a series of claims about migrant children and families that federal courts had already spurned.

"(The government's) motion presents a dizzying array of arguments and quasi-arguments, almost all of which this Court and the Ninth Circuit have previously rejected," lawyers wrote.

In the brief, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, attorneys cited experts who said in attached declarations that complex, local socioeconomic factors cause families with kids — or children traveling without families — to uproot their lives. Those factors include gang violence, extreme poverty and local government corruption.

"Families do not flee their homelands, subjecting themselves and their children to the disruption of displacement and the risks of the journey, for a single motivating factor — least of all an obscure law or policy in a receiving country, such as the Flores Settlement in the United States — that may or may not afford some degree of protection from prolonged detention," wrote Amy Thompson, a postdoctoral scholar at the Colegio de Sonora in Mexico, where she studies migration.

Her observation was echoed in an accompanying declaration by University of Pennsylvania professor Fernando Chang-Muy, who travelled throughout Honduras in May 2019 giving presentations to potential asylum seekers about the legal hurdles they might face in the United States.

"Few to none of them are even aware of the existence of the Flores Settlement Agreement," Chang-Muy wrote.

President Donald Trump and other administration officials have long claimed the Flores Agreement is viewed as a loophole, allowing migrant adults to bring children with them to the U.S. because families cannot be detained at-length. The agreement calls for unaccompanied children to swiftly be placed with "sponsors" – typically relatives. A 2015 opinion by the judge overseeing the Agreement led to a so-called "20-day rule" limiting detainment of families.

The rule says that immigrant children, whether they arrived with family or are unaccompanied, cannot be held in detention for more than 20 days.

The final regulation announced by the government on August 21 would do away with those limits. It is scheduled to go into effect on October 22. Government officials have said they believe the move will deter would-be migrants.

"With the Flores fix… We're looking forward to seeing less and less family units coming across the border," said U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli in a video posted to Twitter the day the regulation was announced.

It’s #Flores fix day, & I visited ⁦@ICEgov⁩’s largest family residential facility in Dilley, Tx. They are doing a great job here! So impressed. pic.twitter.com/IBOHE2XNOg

— USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli (@USCISCuccinelli) August 21, 2019

However, the government's own data contradicts its assessment of the "20-day rule," according to an analysis submitted Friday by University of California, San Diego political science professor Tom Wong.

"The government's claims about correlation obfuscate the fact that the 2015 Flores ruling came in the midst of an increasing trend of migrant family apprehensions," Wong wrote.

In the last year, immigration enforcement has contended with a surge of families and unaccompanied migrant children fleeing destitution and violence in Central America. In the government's August 31 filing in the Flores case, Assistant Attorney General Joseph Hunt said changes in migration patterns mean it "is no longer possible, equitable, or in the public interest" to continue the Flores Agreement.

That argument was refuted Friday by Susan Martin, Professor Emerita at Georgetown University, whose decades in immigration policy include publishing one of the first studies of unaccompanied refugee children, leading two Congressional commissions and writing the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' first guidelines on protection of refugee women.

"I believe that US policymakers were aware of the irregular migration of accompanied children — not just unaccompanied children — when the original Flores Settlement Agreement was negotiated in 1997," Martin wrote. She noted that at the time, "families were the preference" and future waves of migrants were anticipated:

"The original Flores Settlement was not adopted in a vacuum. The federal government was well aware that children were arriving in the United States alone as well as with their family."

First published on September 13, 2019 / 8:32 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Graham Kates

Graham Kates is an investigative reporter covering criminal justice, privacy issues and information security for CBSNews.com.

Don't blame Flores Agreement for migration wave, experts say

In a combative filing Friday, lawyers and experts said the government is wrong to claim terminating a landmark court agreement will deter migration

8M ago US-POLITICS-IMMIGRATION-MIGRANTS screen-shot-2019-09-13-at-6-37-41-pm.png

Bahamas brace for another storm just weeks after Dorian

The Bahamas government has issued a tropical storm warning for its northwestern islands

updated 54M ago screen-shot-2019-09-13-at-6-37-41-pm.png potential-tropical-cyclone-nine-advisory.png

Bahamas issues tropical storm warning as storm nears

Forecasters say a tropical storm warning remains in effect for several northwestern islands in the Bahamas which are still reeling from Hurricane Dorian

6H ago potential-tropical-cyclone-nine-advisory.png nfa-barnett-bahamas-navy-seals-needs-track-frame-1263.jpg

Bahamians decry government hurricane response as new storm looms

Some residents have been without power and running water for a week

10H ago nfa-barnett-bahamas-navy-seals-needs-track-frame-1263.jpg Election 2020 Debate

Sanders distances himself on socialism from Venezuela's Maduro

"To equate what goes on in Venezuela to what I believe is extremely unfair," he said of differences between his politics and those of leftist Latin American regimes

19H ago Election 2020 Debate US-POLITICS-IMMIGRATION-MIGRANTS

Don't blame Flores Agreement for migration wave, experts say

In a combative filing Friday, lawyers and experts said the government is wrong to claim terminating a landmark court agreement will deter migration

8M ago US-POLITICS-IMMIGRATION-MIGRANTS sacklers-1810859-640x360.jpg

Sackler family accused of hiding $1 billion in Swiss accounts

The transfers bolster allegations by New York and other states that the Sacklers worked to shield their wealth in recent years over fears of legal threats

1H ago sacklers-1810859-640x360.jpg 69296528-10219848729838664-7923850761425911808-o.jpg

94-year-old finds an unexpected moving buddy

When Sergeant Jeff Turney got a call about an elderly man determined to drive to Florida, he did something no one expected

1H ago 69296528-10219848729838664-7923850761425911808-o.jpg Super Bowl LIII - New England Patriots v Los Angeles Rams

Rob Gronkowski claims CTE is "fixable"

One brain disease expert says there's "no proven intervention that is effective" in treating CTE

1H ago Super Bowl LIII - New England Patriots v Los Angeles Rams TOPSHOT-AFGHANISTAN-CONFLICT-ATTACK

Afghan official warns of "connections" between ISIS and U.S.

The mission to destroy al Qaeda continues 18 years after 9/11

2H ago TOPSHOT-AFGHANISTAN-CONFLICT-ATTACK US-POLITICS-IMMIGRATION-MIGRANTS

Don't blame Flores Agreement for migration wave, experts say

In a combative filing Friday, lawyers and experts said the government is wrong to claim terminating a landmark court agreement will deter migration

8M ago US-POLITICS-IMMIGRATION-MIGRANTS Migrant families turn themselves to U.S. Border Patrol to seek asylum following an illegal crossing of the Rio Grande in Hidalgo

Doctors in Congress urge officials to offer migrants flu shots

Three physicians serving in Congress called the current policy of not providing flu shots to migrant families and children in Border Patrol custody "dangerous" and "shortsighted"

2H ago Migrant families turn themselves to U.S. Border Patrol to seek asylum following an illegal crossing of the Rio Grande in Hidalgo U.S. Representative Ocasio-Cortez  and Senator Markey hold a news conference for their proposed "Green New Deal" to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 10 years, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorses Ed Markey

Markey faces a potential primary challenge from Congressman Joe Kennedy III

3H ago U.S. Representative Ocasio-Cortez  and Senator Markey hold a news conference for their proposed "Green New Deal" to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 10 years, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington eeubdi9xsai-0gt.jpg

CNN and New York Times to co-host fourth Democratic debate in Ohio

Eleven candidates have qualified for the fourth Democratic debate

4H ago eeubdi9xsai-0gt.jpg 2017-05-10t022233z-617353335-rc1a9dc03b60-rtrmadp-3-usa-trump-comey-succession.jpg

McCabe's lawyers ask if grand jury has declined to charge him

The D.C. U.S. attorney recommended bringing charges against the former deputy FBI director. McCabe was fired in March after an internal investigation found he had displayed a "lack of candor" concerning a media leak

5H ago 2017-05-10t022233z-617353335-rc1a9dc03b60-rtrmadp-3-usa-trump-comey-succession.jpg US-CELEBRITY-TELEVISION-COURT-EDUCATION

Felicity Huffman sentenced to 14 days in jail

The popular television actress admitted to paying $15,000 in an effort to boost her eldest daughter's SAT score.

2H ago US-CELEBRITY-TELEVISION-COURT-EDUCATION Nordoff Robbins O2 Silver Clef Awards 2019 - Arrivals

Sam Smith announces their pronouns are they/them

"After a lifetime of being at war with my gender I've decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out," they said

5H ago Nordoff Robbins O2 Silver Clef Awards 2019 - Arrivals screen-shot-2019-09-13-at-1-32-27-pm.png

New "SNL" cast member Shane Gillis under fire for racial slurs

Podcast footage from 2018 shows the new "Saturday Night Live" cast member using racist and homophobic slurs, and making sexist comments about other comedians

6H ago screen-shot-2019-09-13-at-1-32-27-pm.png Eddie Money performs during the "Fox & Friends" All American Concert Series outside Fox studios on June 7, 2013, in New York City.

Eddie Money, "Two Tickets to Paradise" singer, has died at age 70

Eddie Money's death comes weeks after he revealed he had esophageal cancer

8H ago Eddie Money performs during the "Fox & Friends" All American Concert Series outside Fox studios on June 7, 2013, in New York City. gettyimages-634980016.jpg

Singer Adele files for divorce from husband Simon Konecki

The singer, who had been married to Konecki for two years, previously announced she had separated from him in April​

21H ago gettyimages-634980016.jpg Koehler Urges Higher Gas Prices

"Dark web" hackers could target gas pumps

The burgeoning "Internet of Things" connects consumers to the web through everyday devices — where hackers lurk

2H ago Koehler Urges Higher Gas Prices US-LIFESTYLE-WORKING

California's "Uber law" to affect far more than Uber

Proposed law could change the working lives of truckers, house cleaners, janitors and even freelance writers

5H ago US-LIFESTYLE-WORKING Apple iPhone 11

Apple reveals updated iPhones, watch and Apple TV series

The company's annual product event comes as it's selling fewer and fewer iPhones

Sep 10 Apple iPhone 11 istock88471337large.jpg

Startup can mine people's data from LinkedIn profiles

Company called HiQ Labs wins court OK to scrape profiles on LinkedIn for data about people's lives and connections

Sep 9 istock88471337large.jpg The Google logo is pictured at the entrance to the Google offices in London

48 states launch antitrust investigation into Google

From search to ads to data mining, "an ecosystem where people's whole internet experience is mediated through Google"

Sep 10 The Google logo is pictured at the entrance to the Google offices in London protest-fred-hartman-bridge-9e52922c-683c-406b-b8ae-e2f81fadf54b-750x422.jpg

Protesters dangle from Houston bridge and close part of shipping channel

Sheriff's deputies said at a morning press conference that they would not attempt to force a rescue

Sep 12 protest-fred-hartman-bridge-9e52922c-683c-406b-b8ae-e2f81fadf54b-750x422.jpg Trump

NOAA scientist rips "political" backing of Trump's Dorian claims

Craig McLean, NOAA's acting chief scientist, wrote an email to colleagues that called the agency's response "political"

Sep 9 Trump Hurricane Dorian's damage at Equinor's South Riding Point oil storage facility is seen from an aerial view over Grand Bahama, Bahamas, September 7, 2019.

Company pledges to clean up oil from facility damaged by Dorian

Norwegian-based Equinor says it was unclear how big the spill was at its oil terminal on Grand Bahama

Sep 8 Hurricane Dorian's damage at Equinor's South Riding Point oil storage facility is seen from an aerial view over Grand Bahama, Bahamas, September 7, 2019. beaver-judith-lehmberg-teeth-4500-promo-top.jpg

Nature up close: Beavers, the master engineers

A keystone species for animals and plants, beavers are crafty builders who continually reshape parts of Wyoming's Snake River

Sep 7 beaver-judith-lehmberg-teeth-4500-promo-top.jpg screen-shot-2019-09-06-at-10-31-10-am.png

New species of dinosaur discovered in Japan

The discovery is the largest dinosaur skeleton ever found in the country

Sep 6 screen-shot-2019-09-06-at-10-31-10-am.png sacklers-1810859-640x360.jpg

Sackler family accused of hiding $1 billion in Swiss accounts

The transfers bolster allegations by New York and other states that the Sacklers worked to shield their wealth in recent years over fears of legal threats

1H ago sacklers-1810859-640x360.jpg Close Up Of Man Vaping As Smoking Alternative

New research offers clues to the effects of vaping

According to the CDC, at least 380 people have had vaping-related illnesses

1H ago Close Up Of Man Vaping As Smoking Alternative ctm-0221-peanut-allergies.jpg

FDA recommends approval for peanut allergy treatment

The treatment is designed to "trick" a patient's immune system

1H ago ctm-0221-peanut-allergies.jpg Whole Foods Lower Its Earnings Expectations Amid Increased Competition

Whole Foods dropping health care for part-time workers

The high-end grocery chain, owned by Amazon, will cut health insurance for about 1,900 workers

3H ago Whole Foods Lower Its Earnings Expectations Amid Increased Competition Adult male with heart attack or heart burn condition

Zantac contains a cancer-causing chemical, FDA says

U.S. agency found low levels of a "probable" cancer-causing chemical in Zantac and generic heartburn medications

2H ago Adult male with heart attack or heart burn condition paradise, california — deadly wildfires

PG&E reaches $11B settement with insurers over California wildfires

The deal covers just half of the $20 billion insurance companies wanted, and needs to be approved by a bankruptcy court

8H ago paradise, california — deadly wildfires U.S. Farm Earnings Drop 14.6 Percent In Third Quarter AFter A Decline In Output

China tol lift punitive tariffs on U.S. soybeans and pork

The decision may be a possible goodwill gesture ahead of trade negotiations in October

11H ago U.S. Farm Earnings Drop 14.6 Percent In Third Quarter AFter A Decline In Output U.S.Treasury To Insure Money Market Mutual Funds

U.S. budget deficit surpasses $1 trillion

Gap between what the government spends and how much money it takes in reaches highest level since 2012

Sep 12 U.S.Treasury To Insure Money Market Mutual Funds FDA Declares Teen Use Of Electronic Cigarettes An "Epidemic'

As the U.S. cracks down on vaping, Juul expands to China

Its online storefronts in China are selling devices and flavored pods, now under fire in the U.S. for luring teens

Sep 12 FDA Declares Teen Use Of Electronic Cigarettes An "Epidemic' piketty.jpg

Piketty's latest book: 1,200 pages about ending inequality

The famed economist has some ideas for reducing income inequality, like a 90% tax on the wealthiest estates

Sep 12 piketty.jpg 0913-cbsn-felicityhuffmansentenced-1933209-640x360.jpg

Crime

Felicity Huffman sentenced to 2 weeks in jail

Emmy Award-winning actress Felicity Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in jail for her role in the college admissions scandal. Huffman pleaded guilty to fraud in May for paying $15,000 to boost her daughter's SAT scores. She is the first of the 34 parents charged in the scandal to be sentenced. Rikki Klieman has more.

updated 40M ago 01:58 0913-cbsn-felicityhuffmansentenced-1933209-640x360.jpg 0913-en-felicity-evans-1933139-640x360.jpg

Felicity Huffman sentenced to 14 days in prison

Actress Felicity Huffman was sentenced to 14 days behind bars and a $30,000 fine, after pleading guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges. Her sentencing could set the stage for others involved in the college admission scandal. Carter Evans reports.

1H ago 02:06 0913-en-felicity-evans-1933139-640x360.jpg US-CELEBRITY-TELEVISION-COURT-EDUCATION

Felicity Huffman sentenced to 14 days in jail

The popular television actress admitted to paying $15,000 in an effort to boost her eldest daughter's SAT score.

2H ago US-CELEBRITY-TELEVISION-COURT-EDUCATION 0913-cbsn-felicityhuffman-1933071-640x360.jpg

"Felicity Huffman sentenced to 14 days in jail"

Actress Felicity Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in jail on Friday for her role in the college admissions scandal. Huffman has admitted to paying $15,000 in an effort to boost her eldest daughter’s SAT score.CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman joined CBSN with the latest.

3H ago 09:15 0913-cbsn-felicityhuffman-1933071-640x360.jpg 0913-cbsn-gaspumps-cnx-1933010-640x360.jpg

Hackers find new device to target

Hackers on the dark web have found a new device to target. According to ZDNet, hackers are increasingly discussing how to compromise internet-connected gas pumps on underground cybercrime forums. Danny Palmer, a senior reporter for ZDNet, joined CBSN to discuss.

1H ago 06:35 0913-cbsn-gaspumps-cnx-1933010-640x360.jpg Harvest Moon

Friday the 13th to get full Harvest Moon

Lucky us – the rare occurrence hasn't happened in 19 years

11H ago Harvest Moon 091019-fire1.jpg

Fire delays rocket launch to the International Space Station

It's not yet known when the HTV-8 cargo ship will be launched to the International Space Station

Sep 10 091019-fire1.jpg cbsn-fusion-india-loses-communication-with-lunar-lander-thumbnail-1928725-640x360.jpg

India fails to land on the moon

India hoped to become the fourth nation to soft-land on the moon with their Chandrayaan-2 space mission. But their space agency, ISRO, lost communication with their lander just before the mission was complete. CBS News Space Consultant Bill Harwood joins CBSN to discuss the apparent failure.

22H ago 05:43 cbsn-fusion-india-loses-communication-with-lunar-lander-thumbnail-1928725-640x360.jpg 090619-landing2.jpg

Indian spacecraft apparently crashes in moon landing attempt

India seeks to join the U.S., Russia and China as the only countries to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon

Sep 6 090619-landing2.jpg cbsn-fusion-president-trump-announces-the-u-s-space-command-is-open-as-part-of-an-approach-to-better-defend-american.jpg

Trump launches U.S. Space Command

President Trump held a Rose Garden event to commemorate the establishment of the U.S. Space Command Thursday, as the president pushes for the creation of his sixth branch of the military, the Space Force. CBS News' Bofta Yimam reports.

Aug 29 01:53 cbsn-fusion-president-trump-announces-the-u-s-space-command-is-open-as-part-of-an-approach-to-better-defend-american.jpg robert-frank-the-americans-trolley-new-orleans-1955-nga-promo-660.jpg

Photographer Robert Frank 1924-2019

A look back at the work of one of the most influential of photographers who created intimate, moody portraits of an America struggling to define itself in a post-war world

Sep 10 19 photos robert-frank-the-americans-trolley-new-orleans-1955-nga-promo-660.jpg Damage at the Abaco Beach Resort during the eye of  Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour

Photos: Hurricane Dorian's devastation

"Everything's gone! Everything!" one woman said after Dorian slammed into the Bahamas

Sep 6 42 photos Damage at the Abaco Beach Resort during the eye of  Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour raiders.jpg

The most valuable NFL teams in 2019, ranked

Thanks to some pricey TV deals, a relocation, and brand-new stadiums, the NFL has never been more valuable.

Sep 5 40 photos raiders.jpg Washington Redskins v New England Patriots

Highest-paid NFL players in 2019, ranked

These are the NFL superstars who earn the most cash this season

Aug 29 50 photos Washington Redskins v New England Patriots ashleyfallisparents.jpg

Ashley Fallis death: A family's fight for justice

Was the Colorado mother's 2012 death a suicide, as her husband maintains, or was it murder, as her parents insist?

Aug 24 15 photos ashleyfallisparents.jpg 0913-48hrs-mylifeofcrime-1933227-640x360.jpg

Popular

"48 Hours" podcast: "My Life of Crime"

A six-part, original true-crime series from the producers of "48 Hours" offers an immersive, intimate and sometimes irreverent take on true-crime cases.

updated 8M ago 00:33 0913-48hrs-mylifeofcrime-1933227-640x360.jpg 0913-cbsn-felicityhuffmansentenced-1933209-640x360.jpg

Felicity Huffman sentenced to 2 weeks in jail

Emmy Award-winning actress Felicity Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in jail for her role in the college admissions scandal. Huffman pleaded guilty to fraud in May for paying $15,000 to boost her daughter's SAT scores. She is the first of the 34 parents charged in the scandal to be sentenced. Rikki Klieman has more.

updated 40M ago 01:58 0913-cbsn-felicityhuffmansentenced-1933209-640x360.jpg master-drinking-1920x1080-1927508-640x360.jpg

Drinking culture and American kids

On America's college campuses, there are epidemics we talk about and those we don't. When sexual assaults or fraternity hazing deaths make headlines, court cases follow and new rules are enacted, but less attention is paid to an underlying issue – binge drinking culture. CBSN Originals explores how drinking to excess is not only considered normal, but cool, and how for many young people "blacking out" is less a rarity than an every weekend occurrence – with grave consequences.

Sep 5 23:34 master-drinking-1920x1080-1927508-640x360.jpg 0913-en-dagata-webextra-1933184-640x360.jpg

Impact of a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan

In an interview with Charlie D'Agata, Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib and Afghan Deputy Security Minister General Khoshal Sadat talked about the impact of a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

1H ago 04:46 0913-en-dagata-webextra-1933184-640x360.jpg 0913-en-otr-hartman-1933190-640x360.jpg

Officer moves a stranger to his new home

When Sergeant Jeff Turney got a call about an elderly man who wanted to move to Florida, he knew there was no sense in talking him out of it. Instead, Sergeant Turney decided to go with him. Steve Hartman has their story on the road.

updated 52M ago 03:00 0913-en-otr-hartman-1933190-640x360.jpg