Trump Administration Announces Sweeping New Changes to Longstanding Flores Agreement Which Would Remove the Limit for How Long Illegal Immigrant Families with Children Can Be Detained

  • The Trump administration announced on Wednesday a final regulation that would drastically change the country’s immigration detention system  by enacting a plan that would allow for longer detentions of migrant families and children, which would override a “longstanding court settlement.”
  • The Flores Agreement, a court settlement that has been the law of the land since 1997, dictates the care of migrant children detained in the U.S.
  • The Flores Agreement “sets sweeping standards for the treatment of unaccompanied migrant children, from housing to medical care, as well as education, nutrition and hygiene.”
  • Additionally, “in more recent rulings, the federal judge overseeing the settlement has also effectively prohibited the government from detaining for more than 20 days families apprehended with children.”
  • However, “new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulation, a draft of which was published last year, would give immigration authorities more leeway in detaining families with children for longer.”
  • It would also change “the standards of care for unaccompanied children set forth by the 1997 settlement.”
  • The Trump administration believes its proposed new changes “would render the deal obsolete.”
  • The administration’s new “rule, which will be published in the Federal Register Friday and would go into effect 60 days later,” and would remove “a limit to the number of days families with children could be detained.”
  • Officials have acknowledged there are likely to be a number of legal challenges to the new rule that is likely to delay it from taking effect at the proposed time. A federal judge who oversees the Flores litigation also must approve the regulation.
  • Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said in a briefing that “there is no intent to hold families for a very long time, and vowed that the U.S. government would treat migrant children with dignity, respect and special concern in concert with American values.”
  • Peter Schey, the lead attorney for the team representing thousands of unaccompanied migrant children in the Flores case, accused the Trump administration of “playing politics with children’s well-being.”
  • Schey said: “They know that the only way they can terminate the settlement is by coming out with regulations that institutionalize it, but they have a history of criticizing the settlement. So what is this? I think it’s a politicization of the treatment of children. It’s part of running for reelection. That’s what it’s about.”
  • Trump has criticized the agreement since taking office and has accused it of hampering his administration’s “efforts to deal with large influxes of migrants like the recent months-long surge of Central American families and children journeying towards the U.S.”

Reference Links

  • CBS: Trump administration to detain migrant families and children for far longer with new rule READ
  • USA TODAY: Trump administration announces plan that would let it detain undocumented children indefinitely READ
  • The Hill: Trump officials unveil rule allowing indefinite migrant family detentions READ
  • ABC: Trump administration proposes longer-term detention of migrant families READ

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