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Trump administration could indefinitely detain migrant children



The Trump administration announced on Wednesday it is planning to terminate a Clinton-era agreement governing the humane treatment of migrant children in government custody, opening the door to their indefinite detention along with their parents.

The rule change is all but certain to encounter legal challenges. It would empower the government to detain migrant children and their families indefinitely, revise legally-mandated standards of care and end the Flores Agreement, the 22-year old consent decree that protects young migrants after they arrive to the United States. The standards are set to be published on the Federal Register this Friday and go into effect 60 days after.

Read more: Trump now claims migrant children will be reunited with their families. Here are the lifelong psychological consequences these kids face

Acting Department of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan announced the sweeping new regulations at a press conference, calling the Flores Agreement “operationally outdated.”

“This single ruling has substantially caused and continued to fuel the current family unit crisis and the unprecedented flow of Central American families and minors illegally crossing our border until today,” McAleenan said.

Administration officials said children would continue to be treated “with dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors.”

Under the Flores Agreement, migrant children could only be held for 20 days, or released to a family member or guardian. If that wasn’t possible, children were expected to move to another facility that didn’t operate like a jail.

Officials hope the threat of longer detention will deter migrant families from undertaking the perilous journey to the US-Mexico border. But immigrant advocates say the Flores Agreement provide crucial protections for young, vulnerable migrants fleeing poverty and violence — and they point to the squalid conditions some migrants have faced in federal custody near the border.

Read more: Disturbing photos show ‘dangerous overcrowding’ at migrant detention facilities in Texas

The National Immigration Law Center, a legal aid organization, tweeted the rule change was “unspeakably cruel.”

Apprehensions at the US border have plummeted 40% since May, a drop that’s been attributed to greater enforcement from Mexico, according to the Washington Post.

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