The Trump administration on Wednesday announced plans to end a long-standing federal court agreement that could allow the government to detain immigrant families indefinitely.
Known as the Flores settlement, the existing rule requires the federal government to transfer minors, including those detained with their parents, to state-licensed facilities after 20 days in custody. But states don’t currently have licensing procedures for centers to detain families, meaning the federal government must release them after 20 days. The administration’s new proposal would completely do away with that time limit.
If the rule is implemented, families could spend months or years in detention centers while they await action on their immigration cases.
Immigration rights advocates say the new regulation is part of a larger anti-immigrant strategy.
“The administration’s new move to detain children indefinitely is highly problematic and in line with its other white supremacist policies attacking immigrant families,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, a human rights attorney and the legal and advocacy director of Project South. Shahshahani urged the courts to take action against the administration’s proposed rule, calling it “a blatant disregard of established precedent and fundamental human rights.”
In recent months, the Trump administration has taken aggressive actions to restrict immigration, specifically targeting asylum seekers.
Trump’s public charge rule announced earlier this month would make it harder for immigrants receiving government assistance like Medicaid and food stamps to obtain a green card. The administration also proposed regulations to make it harder for asylum seekers to claim asylum if they have resided in or traveled through a third country before arriving in the U.S.
Trump immigration officials blame the Flores agreement for allegedly “fueling” the number of immigrant families arriving at the Southern border. The president claimed immigrants see it as one way to be released from U.S. custody. These assertions are unfounded.
Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said at a news conference Wednesday that the new rule would “restore integrity to our immigration system and eliminate the major pull factor fueling the crisis.”
The new rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register some time this week, and would take effect after 60 days.