Court Rules Against Trump Administration, Says Migrant Children Entitled to Toothbrushes and Soap

A federal court rejected the Trump administration’s appeal of a ruling that it must provide basic necessities like toothbrushes, soap, and edible food to detained migrant children, The New York Times reports.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Justice Department’s challenge of a lower court decision that found the government failed to provide migrant children with safe and sanitary conditions as required under the 1997 Flores agreement, a settlement that detailed basic protections for children detained by the government.

The Trump administration appealed a 2018 ruling that found it violated the agreement by failing to provide migrant children with conditions where they could comfortably sleep and basic access to food, water, and hygienic products.

"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," wrote Judge Marsha Berzon. "The district court properly construed the Agreement as requiring such conditions rather than allowing the government to decide whether to provide them.”

Trump admin argued kids had no right to soap:

During the appeal, Justice Department attorney Sarah Fabian argued to the court that the Flores agreement did not explicitly say children were required to have access to soap and other basic necessities.

“It’s within everybody’s common understanding that if you don’t have a toothbrush, if you don’t have soap, if you don’t have a blanket, that’s not ‘safe and sanitary,’” Judge Wallace Tashima told Fabian in July. “Wouldn’t everybody agree to that? Do you agree with that?”

“Well, I think it’s — I think those are — there’s fair reason to find that those things may be part of ‘safe and sanitary,’” Fabian replied.

“Not ‘may be,’” Judge Tashima said. “‘Are’ a part. Why do you say, ‘may be’? You mean there’s circumstances when a person doesn’t need to have a toothbrush, toothpaste and soap for days?”

“Well, I think, in C.B.P. custody, it’s frequently intended to be much shorter term,” Fabian replied. “So it may be that for a shorter-term stay in C.B.P. custody that some of those things may not be required.”

Conditions worsened because Trump policies made the problem worse:

“Migrant detention facilities, especially those along the southwestern border, have often been severely overcrowded since last fall. At that time record numbers of migrant children and families, many from Central America, began crossing through Mexico, leaving the government scrambling to find room to house them,” The New York Times reported. “Some policies the administration has introduced have worsened the logjams. Immigration officials have been detaining as many migrants as possible, rather than allowing them to go free while they wait for their day in immigration court. Officials have also added significant bureaucratic hurdles that have slowed the process of releasing children from federal custody.”


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