July 10 (UPI) — A federal judge on Monday denied the Trump administration’s request to alter a 1997 settlement that sets limits on how long the federal government can detain children caught illegally crossing the U.S. border.
Judge Dolly M. Gee of the Federal District Court in Los Angeles said the Justice Department had no basis for requesting the lifting of a 20-day limit on keeping children in immigration detention facilities before they have to be released to licensed care facilities. That limit had been set since 1997 in Flores v. Reno, a case that set the standard for how children in immigration detention are treated.
The DoJ said it needed the limit to be lifted so that it cold detain family units through the end of their prosecution, including asylum proceedings, which could take months, CNN reported.
But Gee accused the DoJ of trying to “light a match to the Flores Agreement and ask this Court to upend the parties’ agreement by judicial fiat.”
She also said the DoJ was making “a cynical attempt” to use the courts to make up for “over 20 years of congressional inaction and ill-considered executive action” on immigration that has led to the current situation.
Gee’s decision comes one day before the DoJ’s deadline to reunite children under the age of 5 who were separated from their parent of guardian at the border.
The DoJ has already said only about half of the 102 children identified by the government will be reunited on time.