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Lumos' public comment on proposed regulations relating to the implementation of the Flores Agreement

Children belong in families,
not orphanages

Lumos' public comment on proposed regulations relating to the implementation of the Flores Agreement

On behalf of the Lumos Foundation USA, I respectfully submit this comment on the proposed regulations relating to the implementation of the Flores Settlement Agreement (FSA), DHS Docket No. ICEB-2018-0002.

Over 80 years of international research has demonstrated that placing children in residential institutions, such as detention centers, orphanages and disability institutions, can severely damage their health and cognitive development.[1] Placing children in such facilities also exposes them to a much higher risk of all forms of abuse.[2]

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has stressed that even short-term detention can cause irreparable harm to children and only serves to compound the psychological trauma many children and families have already experienced due to civil conflict, violence and political unrest in their home countries.[3] Echoing the AAP, the Department of Homeland Security’s own advisory committee has previously recommended the discontinuation of family detention, warning that detention is ‘generally neither appropriate nor necessary for families’ and ‘never in the best interest of children’.[4]

Instead of focusing on detention, the US Government should consider expanding its use of Alternatives to Detention (ATDs), which are significantly cheaper and offer better outcomes for vulnerable children and families. A number of ATDs have already proven highly effective at ensuring compliance within the United States, including the Family Case Management Program (FCMP). Piloted across 5 metropolitan regions in 2017, the FCMP had an overall compliance rate of 99 percent for appointments and check-ins with ICE and 100 percent attendance at court hearings.[5]

The FCMP operated at a daily cost of roughly $38 per family; in contrast, it costs the federal government $298 each day to detain an individual in the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas.

It was in acknowledgment of the inherent harm of child immigration detention that the Flores Agreement (FSA) was established. To approve the proposed regulations in favor of indefinite family detention would be to disregard the principles of the FSA, the guidance of our country’s foremost experts on child health, and what we all know to be true: children belong in families and communities where they can flourish and grow.

Elizabeth Seuling

Executive Director, Lumos Foundation USA

Comments can be submitted to the federal government here.

[1]Berens, A. & Nelson, C. (2015). The science of adversity: Is there a role for large institutions in the care of vulnerable children? The Lancet. [accessed 8 Aug 2016].

[2] Pinheiro, P. (2006). Report of the independent expert for the United Nations study on violence against children. New York: United Nations. [Accessed 13 Sept. 2018.]

[3] Linton, JM, Griffin, M and Shapiro, A. (2017). "Detention of Immigrant Children," AAP Policy Statement, 139(5), available at:

[4] DHS Advisory Council. (2016). Report of the ICE Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers, available at:

[5] DHS Office of the Inspector General. (2017). U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Award of the Family Case Management Program Contract (Redacted). [online] Available at:

[Accessed 22 Oct. 2018].