Migrant Children Could Be Detained Indefinitely Under Trump Administration's New Proposal
The proposed regulation attempts to rollback on decades-old protections for migrant children.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order ending his administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the US-Mexico border in response to public outcry on June 20. But the struggles of migrant families — many of whom are fleeing violence and extreme poverty — hoping to find safety and opportunity in the US are far from over.
Trump’s executive order ended the practice of separating families at the border in favor of a policy that would “maintain family unity.” However, to “maintain family unity” the order called for families to be detained together — indefinitely.
The Trump administration has been largely unable to implement such a policy because of a well-established agreement, known as the Flores settlement, which protects migrant children’s rights and prohibits migrant children from being detained for more than 20 days. The executive order’s appeal to revise the Flores agreement was shot down in court by US District Court Judge Dolly Gee in July.
But the administration made clear on Thursday that it intends to follow through with this approach, submitting a 200-page proposal for a regulation that would replace the Flores settlement, CNN reported.
The Trump administration has blamed the Flores settlement — which requires migrant children to be detained in “less restrictive” environments — for “forcing” it to separate families in the first place. The government argued that they needed to separate children from their families so that the children could be held in “less restrictive” detention centers and shelters, while their parents remained in facilities for undocumented adult immigrants .
Previous administrations typically held families together in less restrictive detention to meet this requirement and released them as a family unit while their cases were pending after the 20-day maximum was reached in accordance with the Flores settlement.
The Trump administration’s regulation, proposed by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services, would instead allow children to be detained together with their families throughout their deportation or asylum-seeking processes for whatever period of time the government deems “necessary.”
Trauma, suicidal feelings, dangerously inadequate medical care. Thousands of children will experience these harms of detention if Trump's proposed reg gutting Flores limits on family detention is implemented @hrw@clarychka@MichaelBochenekhttps://t.co/mKRGZjD4yZpic.twitter.com/nXORiRUZ6t— Grace Meng (@grace_meng) September 7, 2018
The proposal would also allow authorities to keep children in facilities as restrictive as those in which adults are held and gives the government more discretion over migrant children are treated and how their cases are handled, stripping them of protections previously put into place.
Once the proposal is officially published on the Federal Register — on Sept. 7 — the public has 60 days to comment on it, according to Vox; the commenting period will close on Nov. 6. The administration’s move attempts to circumvent the courts by sending the regulation for formal review, CNN reported. However, the final draft of the regulation will still be subject to legal review and is likely to face challenges in court.
If implemented as written, the proposed regulation would pave the way for thousands of migrant families to be detained indefinitely and stripped of protections.