Trump administration expected to announce plan to detain migrant children longer

Daniel Fowler
August 21, 2019

In the wake of the outcry, the Trump administration tried past year to supercede Flores and detain migrants indefinitely.

The rule, which is certain to draw a legal challenge, would replace a 1997 court settlement that limits the amount of time US immigration authorities can detain migrant children. That agreement is generally interpreted as meaning families must be released within 20 days.

PHOTO: Recently detained migrants, many of them family units, sit and await processing in the US Border Patrol Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas on August 12, 2019.

Trump has made a crackdown on immigration, legal and illegal, central to his presidency.

Immigration officials have struggled to handle a surge of families and children fleeing violence and poverty in Central America that have at times overwhelmed border officials. Department of Homeland Security officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The administration proposed a similar plan to this one a year ago, but the rules were never enacted as there was an influx of migrants arriving at the border and a shortage of bed space.

Legal challenges have held up many of Trump's initiatives, but immigration advocates say he has managed to build an "invisible wall" through executive actions bypassing Congress.

The new rules, which are certain to draw a legal challenge, would replace a 1997 legal agreement that limits the amount of time USA immigration authorities can detain migrant children.

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"This is yet another cruel attack on children, who the Trump administration has targeted again and again with its anti-immigrant policies", said Madhuri Grewal, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. Officials said the families would receive mental health treatment and other services.

The government's detention of children has been limited to less than 20 days under a court-approved settlement known as the Flores Settlement Agreement.

Families typically have to wait several months for their cases to work their way through immigration court, DHS officials said, and the new rule would allow DHS to keep those families at detention facilities.

The rule unveiled by acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan is part of the administration's aggressive effort to revamp immigration laws as the number of families and unaccompanied minors crossing the US-Mexico border has increased.

McAleenan said the rule is meant to reduce the number of families trying to enter the US.

Trump tweeted a quote on Wednesday from National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd, where he claims the rules would end "catch and release" immigration practices. "Or, as one gentleman in Guatemala told me, 'as a passport to the United States'".

The regulation is certain to face legal challenges and must also be examined by the judge who oversees the Flores settlement. It's likely that the latest version of the plan will be challenged in court.

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