New Trump Policy Would Permit Indefinite Detention Of Migrant Families, Children

The new policy would end the Flores Settlement and allow the government to hold families with children without a deadline, in a change from the way cases are handled today.

Andrew Harnik/AP
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan says new rule allowing indefinite detention of migrant families with children will “improve the integrity of the immigration system.”

The Trump administration has announced it is ending a federal court agreement that limits how long migrant families with children can be detained.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan outlined the new policy Wednesday, which replaces the Flores Settlement agreement. That’s been a longtime target of immigration hardliners in the Trump administration, who contend the settlement has acted as a lure to families in Central America.

The new policy means that migrant families who are detained after crossing the border can be kept indefinitely, until their cases are decided. Today’s policy doesn’t specify a limit but sets an expectation that cases be resolved comparatively quickly — within around two months.

McAleenan said the new policy would take effect 60 days after it is published on Friday, and would deter what he called a “catch and release” loophole in which families are arrested and quickly released into the United States while their cases are adjudicated.

He also conceded it is certain to be challenged in court.

Moments after McAleenan made his announcement, Madhuri Grewal, a policy counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, called the new policy “yet another cruel attack on children, who the Trump administration has targeted again and again with its anti-immigrant policies … Congress must not fund this.”

McAleenan said under the new rule, “All children in the governments care will be universally treated with dignity, respect, and special concern in concert with American values — and faithful to the intent of the original settlement.”

He said detained families will be held at facilities such as one in Pennsylvania he described as a “campus-like setting” with “cushioned couches,” and recreation facilities, where families are given three hot meals a day.

But those facilities are already near capacity, and critics fear families could be held in detention camps similar to those near the border — in which children have been forced to sleep on pads on cement floors with scant medical attention.

The latest Trump administration attempt to limit illegal migration follows a week after it announced steps to limit legal migration, including a declaration that by seeking government benefits, migrants would jeopardize their chances of becoming permanent residents.

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