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Trump Administration to Detain Migrant Families Indefinitely

The plan is a direct challenge to the Flores Settlement, which only allows children to be detained for 20 days at a time.

LOS EBANOS, TEXAS - JULY 02: U.S. Border Patrol agents watch over immigrants after taking them into custody on July 02, 2019 in Los Ebanos, Texas. Hundreds of immigrants, most from Central America, turned themselves in to border agents after rafting across the Rio Grande from Mexico to seek political asylum in the United States. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

The Trump administration unveiled a new plan today to eliminate the Flores Agreement in order to detain migrant families indefinitely. The Flores settlementwhich was decided over two decades ago, was an agreement that set minimum standards of care for detained children and families. Many of those standards included detention limits (no more than 20 days) and the provisions of adequate food and hygienic products. These limitations were set in the 90’s, when lawyers argued that detaining children for long periods of time was having a lasting and traumatic effect on the child’s physical and mental wellbeing. 

Since the Flores settlement was passed, the government has been required to provide these standards of care to families they are detaining for presenting themselves for asylum at the border or illegally crossing the border. When Trump became president, he tried to work around that with a “Zero Tolerance” policy that separated families and children altogether by requiring that people awaiting criminal prosecution (i.e. adults, not minors) for crossing the border could not be detained alongside minors or, most importantly, their children. 

The policy lasted months before political outrage forced the president and his administration to step back on the policy. Hundreds and hundreds of children were separated from their parents in the meantime and several are still not reunited with their parents, the latter of whom were separated from their kids without a clear plan by the government to return them to one another. Parents shared stories of being deported while their child was still stuck in a detention camp and others were returned to the detention center that their child was just hours after their child was moved to a child-only facility. 

Just recently, the Trump administration tried to argue in court that children they were detaining did not need access to toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, or even a place to sleep — a direct violation of the Flores agreement, which states that children indeed must be given a minimum standard of humane care. Similarly, the Trump administration just announced that it would not provide flu vaccines to the children they plan to indefinitely detain. More than one child in detention has already died of the flu in the facilities, the latter of which house infants as young as four months old. The flu can be fatal for infants. 

The plan, which has to be approved by a federal judge before it becomes law, will likely face several legal challenges from immigrants rights organizations and other associated groups. The timeline for this new proposal becoming law would be the next 60 days, although with legal challenges which are sure to come, it might take much longer to become law.