The Trump administration is taking steps to officially end the 22-year-old Flores Settlement Agreement, a court ruling that requires immigrant children to be released after 20 days in detention, The Washington Post reports.
The new rule, which is expected to go into effect in 60 days, will make it easier for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to hold migrant families indefinitely while they wait for court rulings on asylum cases.
According to The Post, White House officials have said “the Flores Agreement is among the most significant ‘loopholes’ spurring mass migration at the border.” The goal is to circumvent the unlicensed facilities provision “by allowing the federal government to create its own licensing regime, complete with third-party inspections and audits that will be made public.”
The Post reports:
Officials said they hoped the threat of longer detention would deter the crush of Central American migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border and complement existing enforcement measures. Border apprehensions have slumped more than 40 percent since May, a major drop officials have attributed to increased enforcement in Mexico, but officials worry about a resurgence in the fall.
DHS officials said Tuesday that detaining and deporting even a small fraction of the families, perhaps 5 percent to 10 percent of apprehensions, could send a powerful message to smugglers and would-be migrants in Central America.
Immigration advocates say the Flores Agreement provides “essential protections for children fleeing hunger, violence and poverty in other countries,” according to The Post. DHS officials announced in a briefing on Tuesday that once the new rule takes effect, it expects to complete migrants’ immigration hearings within 60 days, which is three times longer than children are currently allowed to be incarcerated.