Court Upholds Ruling That Children Held at Border Have Adequate Food, Bedding

August 16, 2019by Maura Dolan
Asylum-seeking immigrants line up at a border fence in Tijuana, Mexico, on June 20, 2018. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

SAN FRANCISCO — In a closely watched case, a federal appeals court Thursday upheld an order requiring immigration authorities to provide children detained at the border with adequate food, water, bedding, toothbrushes and soap.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an appeal by the Trump administration to an order by a federal judge in Los Angeles who found the government was violating a 1997 settlement by failing to provide detained minors with safe and sanitary conditions.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee issued the order in 2017 after finding that minors in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody were held in conditions that deprived them of sleep and did not have adequate food, clean water or basic hygiene items. The settlement, known as the Flores agreement, required the children be given safe and sanitary quarters.

The government appealed, arguing the order changed the settlement agreement. The original settlement said nothing about allowing children to sleep or wash themselves with soap, the federal government said.

The 9th Circuit disagreed, saying the enumerated items ordered by the judge fell under the settlement’s requirement that children be kept in safe and sanitary conditions.

“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,” the court said.

A video of the 9th Circuit hearing on the case in June went viral. It showed an astonished judge pressing a lawyer for the Trump administration to concede that having soap and toothbrushes were a necessary requirement for sanitary conditions.

The trial court issued the order after finding minors were “not receiving hot, edible or a sufficient number of meals during a given day,” lacked clean drinking water, clean bedding, toothbrushes, soap and towels, endured “sleep deprivation” as a result of cold temperatures, overcrowding, lack of proper bedding and constant lighting.

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