JACL Condemns Proposed Changes to the Flores Settlement

November 6, 2018

Debbie Seguin

Assistant Director Office of Policy U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Department of Homeland Security 500 12th Street SW Washington, DC 20536

Submitted via email to ice.regulations@ice.dhs.gov

Re: DHS Docket No. ICEB-2018-0002, RIN 0970-AC42 1653-AA75, Comments in Response to Proposed Rulemaking: Apprehension, Processing, Care, and Custody of Alien Minors and Unaccompanied Alien Children

Dear Ms. Seguin:

I am writing on behalf of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) in response to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (proposed rule) to express our strong opposition to the proposed rule to amend regulations relating to the apprehension, processing, care, custody, and release of alien juveniles published in the Federal Register on September 7, 2018.

The Japanese American Citizens League is the nation’s oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization. Founded in 1929, we have over 100 chapters with nearly 9,000 individual members. We come to comment on these regulations out of the shared community experience of unconstitutional mass incarceration of Japanese and Japanese Americans during World War II. The parallels of what is being conducted in the overt violation of the Flores Settlement and the desire of this proposed rule to circumvent the Flores Settlement to the Japanese American experience are striking and disturbing.

In section C of the Executive Summary regarding costs, DHS states it is unable to estimate the cost of implementation. The mass incarceration of Japanese Americans resulted in the rapid establishment and construction of ten major concentration camps, each capable of housing over 10,000 forcefully removed Japanese Americans. The impact of the Administration’s policy changes to incarcerate asylum seeking families and removing children from their parents to be incarcerated in separate facilities is forcing the immediate and massive increase in physical detention facilities. The Center for American Progress has estimated the annual cost of the policy impacts from this proposed rule will be a minimum of $200 million but up to $1.24 billion with startup costs of at least $72 million but as much as $520 million. (A full explanation of the calculations and methodology used to produce these cost estimates can be found in: Philip E. Wolgin,

“The High Costs of the Proposed Flores Regulation” (Washington, DC: Center for American Progress, 2018.)

Just as the incarceration of Japanese Americans required a huge investment of resources, this program will also require large expenditures of capital and construction of significant facilities to accommodate the incarcerated minors. The high cost of this proposed policy is important in another consideration of the agencies claim that “this rule does not exceed the $100 million expenditure threshold,” which would trigger additional review as an unfunded mandate and also deem it a major rule for the purposes of the Congressional Review Act. Again, hearkening back to the Japanese American experience, the incarceration of families, and particularly children should never be considered an insignificant program.

And it is upon this premise of the significant impact of incarceration on the targeted group that we share our deepest concerns. The impacts of Japanese American incarceration have been felt long after the last imprisoned family was released. Families have suffered from the stigma that they felt from the mistreatment from their country. Families that lost everything of value struggled to rebuild lives and economic stability after returning to their previous communities where they were often unwelcome. Many families did not return to their previous communities because there was nothing to return to. Ultimately, the trauma inflicted upon the incarcerated families have been felt for generations to follow. The scars of incarceration remain even today at the community level affecting how the Japanese American community relates within itself. The impact of indefinite detention as is being proposed for children and families through the modification of the Flore Settlement Agreement has the distinct possibility of permanently affecting the children and their families. Much of this potential is well documented by the experts in the field.

While the idea of child detention is in and of itself deeply damaging to minor incarcerees, the problems are magnified for children removed from their parents. Studies of health difficulties of detained children found that detained children have reported symptoms of depression, sleep problems, loss of appetite, and somatic complaints such as headaches and abdominal pains; specific concerns include inadequate nutritional provisions, restricted meal times, and child weight loss.

The mental toll on Japanese Americans who were incarcerated without sentencing nor knowledge of if and when they might be released, was devastating. As implemented with immigrant detainees, unlimited detention has been determined to violate the prohibition against torture and ill-treatment under U.S. and international law. Furthermore, the United Nations has unequivocally stated that ill-treatment can amount to torture if it is intentionally imposed “for the purpose of deterring, intimidating, or punishing migrants or their families, or coercing them into withdrawing their requests for asylum”. Indefinite detention has severe medical and mental health consequences as might be expected for a victim of torture.

One of the significant aspects of the government’s efforts to circumvent the Flores Agreement is in proposing alternative facilities when existing facilities are unable to pass regulatory oversight. This is not how we as a nation should be treating children. Child care facilities are often among the most regulated facilities we have. To suggest that we are unable to provide adequate facilities that can pass state oversight thresholds indicates we should not have those facilities, not that they should be exempted from oversight. These are children and they have the right to be protected and kept safe.

The efforts to bypass the Flores Settlement Agreement are morally repugnant. This is not how we as a country should be treating people, regardless of national origin or immigration status. International law provides asylum seekers with basic protections which we are blatantly disregarding. As humans, we have a moral responsibility to these children to treat them humanely and with compassion, not as animals in cages.

We call on DHS and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to immediately withdraw their current proposal, and refocus their efforts to comply fully with the Flores Settlement Agreement. Thirty years ago our country’s leaders were forced to offer an apology to Japanese Americans for what was done to them during the war. We should not be conducting ourselves in a way that we will be forced to offer another such apology to an entire generation of people again.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments on the NPRM. Please do not hesitate to contact me at 202-223-1240 or dinoue@jacl.org to provide further information.

David Inoue

Executive Director

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