Sept. 27 (UPI) — A federal judge in California ruled Friday against the Trump administration’s plan to bypass a settlement that limits how long the government can detain migrant families with minor children.
U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee said the federal government’s efforts to detain families with children indefinitely violates the Flores Agreement. The 1993 settlement said, among other things, that children cannot be detained longer than 20 days.
The Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services in September 2018 proposed a rule change attempting to bypass the agreement, which the government described as a “loophole.”
Then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the changes would send a message that families with minors who enter the country illegally will not be immediately released from custody.
“Legal loopholes significantly hinder the department’s ability to appropriately detain and promptly remove family units that have no legal basis to remain in the country,” Nielsen said. “This rule addresses one of the primary pull factors for illegal immigration and allows the federal government to enforce immigration laws as passed by Congress,” she said.
As a result of a 1996 lawsuit, the administration of former President Bill Clinton reached a settlement decree, called the Flores Agreement, that lays a framework for how the government should treat migrant children. For two decades, the decree didn’t gain much attention until the Trump administration began separating migrant children from parents in great numbers at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2018 — part of the president’s “zero tolerance” policy on unlawful immigration.
On Aug. 21, the Trump administration again unveiled new rules allowing border agents to indefinitely detain migrant families with children.
The rule changes faced lawsuits from immigration advocacy groups such as the National Center for Youth Law.
NCYL Director of Immigration Neha Desai praised Gee’s ruling.
“She did not hide her complete disregard for [the government’s] failed attempts to withdraw from this settlement,” she said.