Justice Department Asks Federal Judge to Terminate Flores Agreement

Children sleep on a mattress on the floor of the AMAR immigrant shelter in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, last year. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

(CN) — Following a group of nonprofit legal groups seeking to intervene earlier this week, the Justice Department asked a federal judge Thursday to decertify the class in the Flores class action that deals with the detention of immigrant children and terminate the settlement agreement.

Lawyers for the DOJ asked U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee, a Barack Obama appointee, to decertify the 23-year-old federally recognized class based on the nonprofits’ claim that class counsel did not adequately represent their clients.

The government argued in Thursday’s court filing that if the class counsel were inadequate, it would justify decertification of the class.

“While the government agrees with Proposed Intervenors that class representation is not adequate… if this Court concurs in Proposed Intervenors’ claims regarding adequacy, it must decertify the class,” the DOJ filing states.

The Flores settlement requires the federal government to provide standards of care for child detainees or release them within 20 days if such standards can’t be maintained.

The nonprofits, Aldea – The People’s Justice Center and The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, argued that the agreement would force families to separate as adult detainees could either allow their children to stay in detention centers or move in with a sponsor.

“The very act of presenting families in prison together with this question is cruel. We are disappointed that Class Counsel does not share our understanding of the realities facing Flores Class Members detained with their parents,” the groups said in a statement on Wednesday.

The DOJ argued that too much time had passed for the nonprofits to intervene, given that the consent decree was entered into record 23 years ago.

“Having long been aware that their interests might be impacted, Proposed Intervenors have no plausible explanation for having delayed their intervention until now, and thus their motion is untimely,” the filing states.

Brought on by concerns over the pandemic, Gee ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement on June 26 to release children from three facilities, but pushed the deadline back from July 17 to July 27.

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