In front of a Ninth Circuit panel held this past Tuesday, a representative of the Trump administration made the argument that children who are apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border are not entitled to receive toothbrushes and soap while they are detained, as it does not fall under the umbrella of safe and sanitary requirements.
Also discussed during the hearing was the case of having the detainees sleep on the cold concrete with nothing but an aluminum blanket, all while the facility’s lights are kept on. This also was argued by the Justice Department’s Sarah Fabian.
The three judges who oversaw the hearing appeared (understandably) confused as to how such a stance could be deliberated. “You’re really going to stand up and tell us that being able to sleep isn’t a question of safe and sanitary conditions?’” U.S. Circuit Judge Marsha Berzon asked Fabian. Fabian dodged the question multiple times, and never really got around to giving a clear answer.
What she did say, however, was that the Trump administration has not been violating any laws regarding their treatment of undocumented citizens who are detained at the border.
“Are you arguing seriously that you do not read the agreement as requiring you to do anything other than what I just described: cold all night long, lights on all night long, sleeping on concrete and you’ve got an aluminum foil blanket?” U.S. Circuit Judge William Fletcher said. “I find that inconceivable that the government would say that that is safe and sanitary.”
In a settlement that was agreed upon in 1997 (Jenny Lisette Flores v. Edwin Meese), it was decided that undocumented people taken into federal immigration custody must be treated humanely, and the facilities in which they are kept must also meet certain “safe and sanitary” standards.
As many would probably agree, a lack of toothbrush, soap and a normal place to sleep do not fall under those standards.
Watch the full video of the hearing, including the argument in question (which starts at 25 minutes in), below.