The Evil That Men Do: The Flores Settlement Agreement and its Contribution to Crimes Against Children – Part I

A 10-minute read.

Over the past few weeks, there have been significant references by journalists and politicians to something called the Flores Settlement Agreement (FSA). This is the first of multiple parts of a post about it for those unfamiliar. On a 1 – 10 scale, where one requires no prior knowledge of or experience with U.S. immigration law, and ten seems like something written by and for immigration attorneys, this series overall is probably about a 7. That said, I believe the topic is vital for honest discourse and to shape meaningful policy, so I’ve tried to make the information as easy to understand as I could since much of what I’ve heard and seen about it online is outright wrong or lacks any manner of context.



There will undoubtedly be people incensed by the word “men” in the title, so to them, I will acknowledge yes, women can be scumbags who prey on children too, and frequently are. If you’re offended, consider pretending the word is something you prefer more like, ‘humex’ or is that ‘humyn,’ since I intended to refer to people in society as a whole, not merely one of the two genders. Another group will probably object to my use of “migrants,” but the word migrate is an intransitive verb meaning “to move from one country, place, or locality to another.” Accordingly, my usage is correct; however, your objections are noted. 

Having gotten the disclaimers out of the way, this post is the third in an ad-hoc series involving child migrants after “Yes, Asylum is ‘Legal,’ But…” and “The Curious Conundrum of Children in Cages,” the latter explaining how children wound up in cages, but not adequately addressing why. You don’t need to read them before this one to understand; however, since through this piece, I hope to answer the question, bringing together all of the information without needing to publish an even lengthier read, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think it would be beneficial.


Who the children are by the numbers

Discussions about the detention of children wouldn’t be complete without knowing a little something about the children themselves:


Finally, while the numbers have increased significantly year-over-year, since 2016, they have been eclipsed by those of “Family Units,” and building on the last bullet point, if children aren’t going to be removed, unless their parent is later designated a ‘Criminal Alien,’ the two aren’t likely going to be separated. Not because #FamiliesBelongTogether, but because the alleged ‘deportation machine’ has never worked as efficiently as critics claim.


Little current outrage over past documented mistreatment

People’s attention spans aren’t what they used to be, and frankly, their knowledge of historical events often begins at a certain point sometimes due to political bias and completely ignores facts with which they disagree. Social media is where these two disappointing realities meet and play out, with Facebook and Twitter being the dominant facilitators of these shortcomings being displayed. Case in point, “kids in cages” & “family separations.”

Former Presidents Trump’s and Obama’s administrations both caged kids and separated families. The former to prosecute all illegal entries; there was no ‘family separation policy,’ separated families and detained children in cages inherited from its predecessor. The latter reluctantly acknowledges caging children—which is good since there’s photographic evidence—but makes excuses about why denying except in cases of an adult who couldn’t prove parentage, was deemed a threat to the child, or was being prosecuted for a crime <> it took any children from “parents” (or presumably other family members). Since the Obama administration, through CBP, admits it didn’t keep track of its separation numbers, it’s hard to refute this claim using much more than logic. However, according to a survey conducted from 2014 through 2015 by the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) of individuals deported to Nogales, in the Mexican state of Sonora, directly across from the Arizona city of the same name, and where the first pictures of “kids in cages” were taken in 2014 revealed: 


Still, during neither administration were caged kids whether or not they had been separated from family, forced to sleep in those cages indefinitely, and by that, I mean permanently rather than for an unspecified period.

I recognize it’s uncomfortable to talk about putting children in cages and make no mistake; it should be—doing so is morally wrong, and even as strongly enforcement-minded as I am, I think so. Still, the cages haven’t always been around and are now gone; the facility in McAllen, Texas, made famous for their use by the Trump administration though they were built and used during Obama’s as well the ones first photographed in Nogales in 2014 while being used by Obama’s, are closed for “renovations.” I’ve written about both already, so in the interest of brevity and clarity, there’s no point in repeating the information except where absolutely necessary, and then only for context.

Unlike the McAllen Central Processing Center, which was a converted former Walmart location and Nogales Processing Center, at some point renamed the Nogales Central Processing Center, on the loading dock of the Nogales station, traditional Border Patrol facilities often resemble “a modern jail pod with beige cinder block walls and [multiple] cells with metal doors with windows,” however, while that’s where our UAC story begins, it isn’t where the most significant parts of it take place. Those would be in private detention centers in Pasadena, California, and Laredo, Texas, in mid-1985. That’s right, unlike what you’ve possibly come or been led to believe, private detention facilities for aliens in deportation (since 1996, removal) proceedings aren’t a new concept envisioned by the ‘Cheeto Dictator’ or Green Day’s “American Idiot,” and likely go back to a time before the presidency of ‘the Great Satan.’ (Ed. I sincerely hope you didn’t need me to tell you that those are Trump, George W. Bush, and Reagan, respectively.)

This brings us to the Flores Settlement Agreement (FSA), or “Flores” for short. The agreement signed on behalf of then-Attorney General Janet Reno governs the treatment and care of children in the U.S. Government’s custody; however, it the original complaint, filed against Reagan’s second Attorney General Edwin Meese, wasn’t so much about “the conditions [of] facilities where juveniles [we]re incarcerated.” It was that since September 1984, as part of a condition on their release from detention, INS required UACs’ parent(s) or legal guardian(s) to submit themselves to “interrogation” and, if applicable, deportation. Ironically, this policy would be ruled illegal because the Reagan administration, much like Trump’s would repeatedly fail to do three decades later, “never published [it] in the Federal Register in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act“.

To further demonstrate selective sanctimony, you might recall the outrage that ensued in June 2019, when an attorney from the Department of Justice argued before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that detained children didn’t ‘need beds, soap or toothbrushes.’ However, the Obama administration was the subject of a class-action lawsuit in 2015 alleging “[s]cores of detainees report[ing] being held in unsanitary and frigid cells while being denied adequate food, water, hygiene, medical attention, or access to legal counsel.” Some will probably see this as a case of whataboutism or a suggestion that one administration was better or worse than another, but it’s not. Both were wrong, full stop, and I’ll add that in the two months he’s been POTUS, rather than veep, Joe Biden isn’t proving to be any better!

Still, while such treatment is unconscionable, objections to it fail to acknowledge improvements (and I use the term loosely) since 1985, when one of the Flores Plaintiffs, then-sixteen-year-old Ana Maria Martinez Portillo of El Salvador, alleged that while in the Laredo, Texas detention facility run by Corrections Corporation of America, now known as CoreCivic, for having “entered the United States without submitting to inspection by an INS officer,” she was subjected to “[strip searches] of her vagina and rectum.” 

In July 2018, in a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee entitled “Oversight of Immigration Enforcement and Family Reunification Efforts,” attendees Jennifer Higgins, Associate Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) Refugee, Asylum and International Operations (RAIO) Directorate, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE’s) then-Executive Associate Director for Enforcement And Removal Operations, Matthew Albence, were asked by an indignant Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawai’i whether they would send their children to ICE Family Residential Facilities (FRC), complaining that they [the facilities in Dilley and Karnes, Texas] had been described as similar to “summer camps.” (Despite the serious nature of the subject, I watched this hearing live, and highly recommend the part that followed; it’s hilarious!) Compared to facilities for UACs operated under contract for Health and Human Services (HHS), that characterization is a bit of a stretch. However, excluding the facility in Homestead, Florida, about which I don’t think I’ve ever seen favorable coverage, and unlike the “makeshift detention center” in Pasadena, California where Flores plaintiffs Flores, Hernandez, and Cruz, were held by then INS Contractor, BSS (Behavioral Systems Southwest, Inc.), literally “a ramshackle motel [] [surrounded by] a chain-link fence … [and with a drained pool]” where they received no educational instruction; no educational or other reading materials; inadequate recreational activity; and no medical care, I don’t find comparing a facility where in addition to “receiv[ing] a minimum of six hours of structured education, Monday through Friday, throughout the entire year in basic academic areas (Science, Social Studies, Math, Reading, Writing, Physical Education, and English as a Second Language (ESL)“, “three meals a day plus snacks, since federal rules say [children] must be fed ‘until they are full'” and where there are not only beds for them, they have access to “comfy dormitories, coloring with ‘multicultural crayons,’ [] their favorite soccer teams from back home [available] on the extensive cable system, [they can] kick[] [a] ball around themselves on a beautiful [] soccer field”, can participate in” ‘Spanish language yoga’… go bowling, to visit museums and even to hit up [] amusement park[s]” as being the equivalent to Club Fed‘ is gross hyperbole. Instead, I would suggest claims such facilities are concentration camps is. 


In Part II, I’ll break down the Flores Agreement to help you understand what it means for the children “protected” by it and for the United States.

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One Response

  1. Great work once again. We all know cartels know and exploit our laws. Was this child strip searched looking for drugs? I find it hard to believe as mean, criminal, and abusive as they are to children they wouldn’t take advantage of trafficking drugs into the U.S. via children who’s parents are in debt to them for smuggling the child into the U.S. In fact I’d be surprised to find out that wasn’t happening on a major scale. Of course we all wish it weren’t true or possible children weren’t being abused in this way. I also am not condoning strip searches of children. Was this policy at the time or just a new officer not aware of protocol? Which leads me to ask whether they do this to adult illegal aliens. Just trying to understand how that could happen. I’m not even sure in our penal system where that’s allowed and when it’s considered inappropriate. Again not making a judgement about the officer either way.
    Secondly, have you written anything in depth on the Trafficking Victims Protection Act? I’d really like to know how our leaders justified keeping other people and country’s children instead of returning them to family and nation, unless smuggling them to their illegal parents here in the U.S. was the actual intent of the act.

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