The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services will formally issue a rule Friday to withdraw from the Flores Settlement Agreement which outlines standards for the care of alien children and families in the custody of federal immigration authorities. The Trump Administration contends the new regulation, which focuses on keeping alien families together, should terminate the court agreement, but the move will likely trigger numerous legal challenges. Democrats, especially those in the House of Representatives, and other supporters of mass immigration have used family separation as a rallying cry against the Trump Administration and the President's efforts to stem the crisis at the southern border.
Due to this obstruction and Congress's overall failure to act in the face of a national security and humanitarian crisis at the southern border, the Trump Administration has put forth a new rule will allow alien minors and adult family members to be held in the same facility while awaiting their immigration court hearing, while at the same time closing an often exploited loop-hole in federal immigration law. Homeland Security officials said the rule would eliminate a 20-day cap for detaining alien minors and create a new licensing regime that would make it easier for federal officials to make sure detention facilities are well equipped and properly staffed to handle the ongoing immigration crisis in at the southern border.
Officials said they do not expect to hold families more than two months; and added that they hope the threat of detention, rather than the know asylum loophole we have today, would send a powerful message to human smugglers and false family units that bring children to the U.S. border, and would no longer guarantee a family’s release into the country. The White House maintains that smugglers are driving the record influx of Central American families by selling parents discounted trips to the U.S. border with Mexico and telling them to bring their children because the 20-day limit means they are likely to be released. Most are released to await hearings in the backlogged immigration courts where they rarely show up for their court day, and they are rarely deported.
The Flores Settlement Agreement stemmed from a decades-old lawsuit over conditions for underage aliens. The agreement compels the U.S. government to transfer minors from border jails into state-licensed facilities as expeditiously as possible. The agreement does not specify a time period, but after the Obama Administration expanded family detention, Judge Gee, whose judicial district is in California, ruled that officials could not hold children in unlicensed facilities for more than 20 days, the time the government said it needed to process their cases, grossly underestimating the average processing time.
Rosemary Jenks, Director of Government Relations for NumbersUSA states,
It is long past time that we end the Flores Settlement loophole that effectively requires catch and release for illegal aliens who arrive with children. We know this loophole has created an entire industry of abuse and exploitation of children, and we applaud the Administration for finally taking steps to close it. It is unfortunate that the Administration has to act alone because Congress is unwilling to put politics aside to address this humanitarian crisis.
Updated: Thu, Sep 5th 2019 @ 12:40pm EDT