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  • Central American migrants are seen inside an enclosure where they are being held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Texas.

    Central American migrants are seen inside an enclosure where they are being held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Texas. | Photo: Reuters

Published 21 August 2019
Opinion

The rule would terminate the 1997 court ruling, known as the Flores settlement agreement, that limits the amount of time U.S. migration authorities can detain migrant children.

The United States government presented Wednesday a new rule that allows officials to detain migrant families indefinitely while a court considers whether to grant them asylum, abolishing a previous 20-day limit in the long-standing Flores Settlement agreement.

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"This is yet another cruel attack on children, who the Trump administration has targeted again and again with its anti-immigrant policies," Policy Counsel with the ACLU,  Madhuri Grewal, said in a statement, adding that “the government should not be jailing kids, and certainly shouldn't be seeking to put more kids in jail for longer."

The rule would terminate the 1997 court ruling, known as the Flores settlement agreement, that limits the amount of time U.S. migration authorities can detain migrant children. That agreement is generally interpreted as meaning families must be released within 20 days.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus warned the rule if implemented, will have devastating long-term consequences for children and their families.

"Flores protects migrant children from indefinite detention and inhumane conditions," tweeted the Caucus. "Now, the Trump admin is trying to tear it up and indefinitely imprison families. This will cause irreparable harm to children."

And the rule would also infringe international law, especially human rights law referenced in article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which reads that  anyone arrested “shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial.” 

Back in 2018, due to a similar law in Australia, the United Nations condemned as arbitrary and illegal the country’s indefinite incarceration of refugees and asylum seekers.

Once the proposed rule change is published in the Federal Register, it will be subject to a 60-day public comment period. The new regulation must also be approved by a federal court, lawsuits are expected.

As Trump has taken anti-migration as a campaign rally for his 2020 reelection bid, this rule would be the third major regulation restricting migration in little more than a month. 

On July 15 the administration unveiled a rule to bar migrants from applying for asylum at the southern border, and on Aug. 12 it announced regulation denying visas and permanent residency for hundreds of thousands of people for receiving public benefits such as welfare, food stamps, public housing or Medicaid.

Meanwhile, Trump also told reporters on Wednesday he is seriously looking at ending the right of citizenship for children born to non-citizens within the U.S., which would mean changing the constitution. 

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