Thursday, 19 September, 2019

White House Makes Its Move Against Flores Agreement on Migrant Child Detentions

Child migrants to be held in detention longer under new Trump administration rule Child migrants to be held in detention longer under new Trump administration rule
Russell Knight | 21 August, 2019, 20:41

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

A $4.6 billion U.S. border bill passed by Congress in June contained more than $1 billion to shelter and feed migrants detained by the border patrol and nearly $3 billion to care for unaccompanied migrant children who are turned over the Department of Health and Human Services, but rejected the administration's request for additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention beds. The agreement is generally interpreted as meaning families must be released within 20 days.

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 goal of the Trump administration is to plug legal loopholes that have helped human traffickers and smugglers to exploit vulnerabilities across the US-Mexico border.

Homeland security officials believe that time limits on the detentions of migrant families has driven the surge of Central American families crossing the border into the United States this year. The number of individuals within family units who Border Patrol has apprehended along the southern border so far this fiscal year reached more than 390,000 by the end of June.

Legal challenges have held up many of Trump's initiatives, but immigration advocates say he has managed to build an "invisible wall" through executive actions bypassing Congress.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has repeatedly said detention is not suitable for children, who may suffer numerous negative physical and emotional symptoms. Officials said the families would receive mental health treatment and other services.

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Under what is known as the Flores settlement, the government is required to release a minor from a non-licensed facility as expeditiously as possible, which has been set at 20 days.

The Flores agreement established that when families with children were captured and detained, they had to be released in less than two dozen days to a family member or guardian in the US - and if that was not possible they had to be transferred to a care facility that does not operate like a jail.

Families typically have to wait several months for their cases to work their way through immigration court, and the new rule would allow DHS to keep those families at detention facilities.

McAleenan said the rule is meant to reduce the number of families trying to enter the US.

The administration unveiled a sweeping rule last week that would deny visas and permanent residency to poor migrants, a move that experts say could cut legal immigration in half. "Or, as one gentleman in Guatemala told me, 'as a passport to the United States'". The implementation deadline could slip, however, depending on the success of the likely court challenges.

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