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Trump Admin. to Expand Detention Times Through New Regulation

author Published by Chris Pierce

Today the Trump Administration is expected to release a regulation aiming to make it easier to keep illegal immigrant families detained together for longer periods of time, according to a former Homeland Security Department official familiar with the regulation. The final rule outlines standards for the care of alien children and families in the custody of federal immigration authorities. It aims to change licensing requirements for family detention centers and remove the ineffectual 20-day limit on the detention of children arbitrarily set by a judge enforcing the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement, according to a draft version released in September 2018. The Trump administration contends the new regulation should terminate the court agreement, but the move will likely trigger numerous legal challenges.

President Donald Trump has made border security a major focus of his first term in office, even more so during the start-up of the 2020 election, and finalizing the detention rule has been a top priority pushed by the White House, and those who support common-sense immigration reform. The administration argues the rule could discourage migrants from trekking to the southwest border to cross illegally into the U.S. The number of migrants arrested at the border — a metric used to estimate illegal crossings — soared earlier this year to monthly levels not seen in a decade. Families arriving from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador fueled the surge, which has receded in recent months.

The detention regulation is expected a little more than a week after the administration issued its “public charge” rule. That sweeping measure will allow federal immigration authorities to deny green cards to aliens who receive certain public benefits or are deemed likely to do so — a law as old as regulated immigration itself. The “public charge” rule was last updated under the Clinton Administration to deem aliens who use cash benefit welfare programs, such as TANF or SSI, inadmissible under 8 U.S. Code §1183. Immigration officials will now also consider SNAP (food stamps), most Medicaid, Medicare Part D subsidies, Section 8 housing, and other programs.

But, as Jason Richwine pointed out, there are still means-tested, taxpayer-funded welfare programs that are not covered by the new rule, such as free school lunch (and breakfast), WIC, the refundable portion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Additional Child Tax Credit. But even if every possible poverty program were included, and the rule were enforced in the most stringent manner possible, you’re still going to end up with relatively high levels of immigrant welfare use so long as the federal immigration program selects people based mainly on family connections or random chance, as reported by Mark Krikorian in the National Review.

In a similar vein to today’s regulation change, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced a bill in May that would have extended the time children can be held in custody to 100 days and required migrants to apply for asylum from their home countries or Mexico. But Democrats opposed the measure, S. 1494 (116), and Graham was forced to change committee rules to move it through the committee earlier this month. Several other Trump-aligned immigration bills have failed to gain traction in recent years.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement maintains only 3,326 family detention beds, according to a 2018 Government Accountability Office report. Most of that bed space is located in the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, which can hold 2,400 people. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan ripped lawmakers in July for a failure to pass legislation that enables longer detentions of families, allows Central American aliens to be promptly removed, and procures more bed space for immigration enforcement and detention.

The Trump administration expects legal challenges to the new regulation.

For more on this story, please visit Politico.

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