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Federal Judge Rules Against Trump Administration on Immigrant Child Detention

Silhouette of a refugees family with children
By Christopher Coble, Esq. on September 30, 2019

Family separation and child detention have become a hot-button topic in President Donald Trump's war on immigration. At least seven children have either died in custody or after being detained by federal immigration agencies at the border, and hundreds more remain separated from their families.

Federal immigration law, in the form of what's known as the Flores Agreement, regulates the manner in which migrant children may be detained, and limits how long they can remain in detention. The Trump administration has been battling against this memo's requirements, but was dealt a blow when a federal judge ruled they must remain in place, at least for now.

Night and Day

Following a hearing in a Los Angeles federal court, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee tentatively ruled that the Department of Homeland Security could not implement new provisions until she issued a final ruling. Those provisions would allow families to be detained longer than the 20 days allowed under the Flores Agreement.

Attorneys for the government have moved to invalidate the agreement entirely, but Judge Gee seemed skeptical of their arguments, saying, "Just because you tell me it is night outside, does not mean it's not day."

"There wasn't a whole lot to be discussed given her conviction that the final regulations were inconsistent with the settlement agreement," Neha Desai, co-counsel for Flores said regarding Gee's ruling. "We know that this is not the end of the fight. We anticipate the defendants will appeal the ruling and we're ready to vigorously defend the agreement if and when it goes up on appeal."

Beginning and End

As noted above, Gee's decision is not yet final. But an ultimate ruling is expected soon. Until then, immigration officials must abide by the Flores Settlement, which mandates that they:

  • House minor detainees in facilities that meet certain standards, including state standards for housing and care of dependent children
  • Place minors in the least restrictive setting appropriate to the child's age and special needs; provide notice of rights, safe and sanitary facilities, and contact with family members
  • Maintain a policy favoring release to a parent, legal guardian, adult relative, or licensed program, and make continuous efforts toward family reunification
  • Allow children to seek judicial review with any U.S. District Court to challenge their placement determination or noncompliance of the facility

For further questions about child detention or family separation, you can contact an experienced immigration attorney for answers.

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