Immigrant Children Could Be Detained Indefinitely With Their Families Under This Change
Lately, it's been harder than usual to consume news coming out of the White House. Ever since President Donald Trump announced his "zero-tolerance" policy on immigration back in April, which led to the separation of over 2,000 children from their families, turning on the TV or browsing online has been heartbreaking. There was some light at the end of the tunnel for a few moments after a federal judge barred the Trump administration from separating families, but now the Trump administration is pushing to keep immigrant children detained indefinitely with their families under the very ruling that's keeping them together.
In late June, people who were outraged about the Trump administration's policy of separating immigrant families won a small victory when Trump signed an executive order on June 20 to stop the separation of families at the border. Not long after, Judge Dana Sabraw of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California ruled on June 26, that the families who have already been separated must be reunited within 30 days and barred all separation, according to New York Magazine. But if you thought that was a victory, maybe think again.
What looked like a small victory was short-lived when attorneys from the Department of Justice (DOJ) argued that the June 26 injunction actually cancelled out a law called the Flores agreement which prohibits children from being detained indefinitely, leaving the field open for the Trump administration to detain families together indefinitely, according to New York Magazine. Of course the DOJ never said they plan to keep families longer than 20 days — as is prohibited by federal law — but immigration and deportation proceedings can take months or even years. In a June 29 legal notice, the DOJ said that they will not separate the families but they will detain them for as long as needed while their immigration proceeding are underway, according to The Washington Post. It read,
The government will not separate families but detain families together during the pendency of immigration proceedings when they are apprehended at or between ports of entry.
Elite Daily has reached out to the DOJ for comment but has not heard back at time of publication.
Trump began the policy of separating immigrant children from their families as a work-around of the Flores settlement, which dates back to the 90's and bars the government from detaining immigrant children for more than 20 days. In order to get around that, the administration began separating the children from their guardians in order to prosecute the adults as part of the "zero-tolerance" policy which requires that all undocumented immigrants crossing the border be prosecuted. Trump's found "loophole" wasn't so well-received, and the policy of family separation was heavily criticized on both sides of the aisle.
So basically, I wouldn't go applauding Trump's "effort" to stop taking children away from their families. Is being in jail with your mom so much better than being taken away and put in a detention center alone?
On June 21, just a day after Trump decided to end the separation of families at the border, the DOJ filed a request to modify the Flores agreement to allow for the indefinite detention of immigrant families, according to Politico. The statement asked for "immediate interim relief from this Court that would permit family detention during immigration proceedings."
According to The Washington Post, the option to keep families detained for more than 20 days was there before Trump came into office, as long as the parents consented to it. However, Leon Fresco, who was the deputy assistant attorney general for the Office of Immigration Litigation during President Obama's administration, told the Washington Post on June 29 that officials under Obama didn't want parents to have to make the choice between giving up their children into the refugee resettlement program — which would take the children away and try to place them in new homes — or keeping them detained. That's the sort of choice Fresco apparently believed, after reading the DOJ filings, the Trump administration would have no problem putting on the parents. Fresco said,
What they want to do is put the choice to the mom, separate or not separate, but make the choice so onerous that there really is no option other than to stay in family detention.
However, there's still hope. Both the June 21 and June 29 filings from the DOJ are mere arguments. Dolly M. Gee, the judge who is in charge of overseeing the Flores agreement, still has to come up with a ruling, according to The Washington Post. She could side with the DOJ and allow the government to detain families for the duration of their immigration proceedings, or her ruling could fall somewhere in the middle of total freedom and indefinite detainment: like releasing them with monitoring bracelets, according to The Washington Post.
For now, at least families will be kept together, and hopefully all the children taken will be reunited with their parents sooner rather than later. You can always hope.