President Trump's immigration agenda was dealt more legal setbacks this weekend, with three federal judges blocking three separate immigration reforms.
The first came from Los Angeles-based U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee, who ruled that the family detention regulation, recently put forth by the Trump Administration, violated the terms of the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement, which limits the detention of migrant children with their parents to twenty days.
Just hours later, another LA-based District Court Judge, Andre Birrote Jr., issued a permanent nationwide injunction barring ICE from relying on a national fingerprint database to identify and issue detainers for illegal immigrants.
Finally, hours before midnight on Friday, in a 126-page ruling, D.C.- based U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson blocked the Trump Administration's efforts to expand the use of expedited removal, faulting the policy as arbitrary, and lacking public input.
Currently, the Flores Settlement Agreement governs the standards for the detention of migrant children. Under the terms of the agreement and subsequent court rulings, alien minors cannot be detained with their parents for longer than twenty days. U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee said the new Trump Administration detention regulations run afoul of the Flores Agreement's requirement that minors be placed in the least restrictive setting after being taken into custody, the very rule the Trump Administration was hoping to replace with a more common-sense detention policy allowing for families to be detained together until their appearance before an immigration judge.
In a 24-page order, Gee stressed that the 1997 consent decree was a contract between both parties and could not be superseded at the request of a single party. “The blessing or the curse — depending on one’s vantage point — of a binding contract is its certitude,” Gee said in the order. “Defendants cannot simply ignore the dictates of the consent decree merely because they no longer agree with its approach as a matter of policy.“ A DOJ spokesman responded to the ruling:
The Department of Justice is disappointed that the court is continuing to impose the outdated Flores Agreement even after the government has done exactly what the Agreement required: issue a comprehensive rule that will protect vulnerable children, maintain family unity, and ensure due process for those awaiting adjudication of their immigration claims. The Trump Administration will continue to work to restore integrity to our immigration system and ensure the proper functioning of the duly enacted immigration laws.
The second ruling, made by U.S. District Court Judge Andre Birrote Jr., issued a permanent injunction barring ICE from relying on national fingerprint databases when issuing detainers, which are requests made to police agencies to keep people who have been arrested in custody for up two days beyond the time they would otherwise be held.
Until this nationwide injunction, per Secure Communities - policy initiated under President George W. Bush and continued under President Obama - when someone was arrested and booked into jail, their fingerprints were sent to the FBI and ICE, and if the person happened to be an illegal alien ICE would request a detainer for the local municipality to hold the suspect until ICE could arrive and take custody. John Morton, Obama's first ICE Director, called Secure Communities "the future of immigration enforcement" because it "focuses our resources on identifying and removing the most serious criminal offenders first and foremost."
The Judge justified his ruling by stating that the databases often contained “incomplete data, significant errors, or were not designed to provide information that would be used to determine a person’s removability.” A DOJ spokesman responded to the ruling:
Detainers are critical to the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to remove thousands of criminal aliens from the United States each year. Detainers use one of the best features of our law-enforcement system: good-faith cooperation between federal immigration officers and their local law enforcement partners to keep dangerous criminals out of our communities. Many courts across the country have correctly concluded that this cooperation is lawful and have rejected legal challenges to the use of detainers. This recent decision wrongly breaks with those many decisions and puts our communities at risk.
Finally, U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson halted the Administration's policy shift on expedited removal, removing the constraints on who could be placed under expedited removal from those apprehended within 100 miles of the border and within two weeks of illegally crossing to simply those who have resided in the United States for less than two years. Judge Jackson declared that the Trump Administration's decision-making process leading to the change appeared to have violated federal law.
The Judge said the decision seemed arbitrary and faulted officials for failing to carry out a formal notice-and-comment practice required for major changes to federal rules. “Government actors who make policy decisions in their official capacities cannot succumb to whims or passions while rulemaking,” wrote Jackson, an appointee of President Barack Obama. “If a policy decision that an agency makes is of sufficient consequence that it qualifies as an agency rule, then arbitrariness in deciding the contours of that rule . . . simply will not do.” A DOJ spokesman responded to the ruling:
Congress expressly authorized the Secretary of Homeland Security to act with dispatch to remove from the country aliens who have no right to be here. The district court’s decision squarely conflicts with that express grant of authority and vastly exceeds the district court’s own authority. This ruling undermines the laws enacted by Congress and the Trump Administration’s careful efforts to implement those laws.
For more on the Flores ruling, please click here.
For more on Secure Communities, please click here.
For more on the detainers ruling, please click here.
For more on the expedited removal ruling, please click here.
Updated: Mon, Oct 14th 2019 @ 10:25am EDT