Remember a couple of months ago when the Trump administration argued in court it shouldn’t be required to provide things like soap, toothbrushes, showers, towels, beds, blankets or sleep to the migrant kids it has detained, in many cases, after forcibly separating them from their parents?
Well, the verdict is in, and turns out: the government was wrong.
Back in 1997, the Justice Department entered into a binding agreement that governs how it must treat immigrant children in its custody. Known as the Flores Agreement, it requires the facilities kids are held in to be “safe and sanitary,” and mandates the government treat migrant kids with “dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors.”
If the government fails to meet those standards, it can be sued. That is what happened in June of 2017, when the lawyers representing the kids took the government to court. That court found kids in government custody were “not receiving hot, edible, or a sufficient number of meals during a given day,” “had no adequate access to clean drinking water,” experienced “unsanitary conditions with respect to the holding cells and bathroom facilities,” lacked “access to clean bedding, and access to hygiene products (i.e., toothbrushes, soap, towels),” and endured “sleep deprivation” as a result of “cold temperatures, overcrowding, lack of proper bedding (i.e., blankets, mats), [and] constant lighting.”
The government appealed, arguing essentially “safe” and “sanitary” were subjective terms open to interpretation. On Thursday, a panel of judges rejected the Department of Homeland Security’s tortured logic. Judge Marsha S. Berzon said the first court’s finding was “consistent with the ordinary meaning” of the words safe and sanitary, and “a commonsense understanding” of those words mean.
“Assuring that children eat enough edible food, drink clean water, are housed in hygienic facilities with sanitary bathrooms, have soap and toothpaste, and are not sleep deprived are without doubt essential to the children’s safety,” Berzon wrote.