Trump administration says longstanding court decree allows detaining migrant families

WASHINGTON, June 30, 2018 (AFP) – The White House intends to detain
migrant families together but might therefore hold children longer than
previously allowed, according to new court documents filed by the US Justice
Department.

“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,” the Justice Department said in documents filed
Friday as the Donald Trump administration struggles to quell fury over the
controversial separation of minors from their families.

In Los Angeles, a decades-old federal court settlement known as the Flores
Agreement mandates immigration officials release detained minors if they are
held more than 20 days.

In a separate case a US district judge in San Diego on Tuesday ordered
that divided families be reunited within 30 days — and two weeks in cases
involving children under five.

The Justice Department submission to the US judge in charge of the Flores
Agreement calls attention to what it sees as a conflict between the two
cases, saying the longstanding agreement “put the government in the difficult
position of having to separate families if it decides it should detain
parents for immigration purposes.”

“The rulings work together to permit detention of parents with their minor
children with whom they are apprehended,” the government said, adding that an
“amendment of the Flores Agreement is appropriate to address this issue.”

The filing does not say outright that the White House will detain families
longer than 20 days but rather for the “pendency” of immigration proceedings
— which could last months.

Faced with a barrage of criticism both at home and abroad Trump last week
signed an executive order to halt the family separation practice, but made no
specific provisions for those already split apart.

Some 2,000 children remain split from their parents, according to official
figures released last weekend in the wake of international outrage over the
stripping of minors from their parents believed to have crossed illegally at
the US-Mexico border.

Trump has made fighting immigration — both illegal and legal — one of
the most sacred mantras of his fiercely US-centered policy agenda.

Many trying to cross the US-Mexico border are destitute people fleeing
gang violence and other turmoil in Central America.