The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled against the Trump administration over living conditions for detained migrant children, upholding an order that found federal authorities had violated the terms of a decades-old settlement dictating the treatment of the children, reports the National Law Journal. “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. A 1997 agreement governing detention of migrant children requires “such conditions rather than allowing the government to decide whether to provide them,” Berzon said.
The case stemmed from allegations that the U.S. was in violation of the settlement over the treatment of migrant children detained at the U.S.’ southern border. The terms of the agreement spell out how detained migrant children must be treated, including that the children must be held “in facilities that are safe and sanitary” and that the minors be treated “with dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors.” Justice Department attorneys argued before the circuit panel that the terms of the settlement didn’t require them to provide specific sanitary items. A suggestion by DOJ lawyer Sarah Fabian during oral arguments that the government didn’t have to give the children soap or toothbrushes captured national headlines. The Trump administration has faced intense scrutiny over its treatment of migrant children detained at the border, particularly in light of its since-terminated policy of separating immigrant families. At least six children have died in or shortly after being held in the custody of immigration officials over the past year.