LOS ANGELES (AP) — A United States (US) judge on Friday blocked new Trump administration rules that would enable the government to keep immigrant children in detention facilities with their parents indefinitely.
US District Court Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles said the rules conflict with a 1997 settlement agreement that requires the government to release immigrant children caught on the border as quickly as possible to relatives in the US and said they can only be held in facilities licensed by a state.
Gee said the Flores agreement — named for a teenage plaintiff — will remain in place and govern the conditions for all immigrant children in US custody, including those with their parents.
The Trump administration sought to end the agreement and issued the new rules with the hope of detaining immigrant children in facilities with their parents. The move came as part of a broader crackdown on asylum seekers arriving on the Southwest border, many of them families with children from Central America.
The Flores agreement allows for the settlement to be phased out when rules are issued for the custody of immigrant children that are consistent with its terms.
Attorneys who represent detained immigrant children welcomed Gee’s position, which she initially conveyed to them in a draft ruling during a court hearing on Friday.
They said they wouldn’t let the administration use young immigrants to try to deter migrants fleeing desperate conditions from seeking asylum in the US.
“We will continue vigorously to defend the rights of detained immigrant children,” Neha Desai, director of immigration at the National Center for Youth Law, told reporters. The Department of Justice said the administration is disappointed with the ruling because it did what was required to implement the new rules.
On Friday night, the White House issued a statement criticising the judge’s ruling.
“For two and a half years, this Administration has worked to restore faithful enforcement of the laws enacted by Congress, while activist judges have imposed their own vision in the place of those duly enacted laws,” the statement said. “The Flores 20-day Loophole violates Congressional removal and detention mandates, creating a new system out of judicial whole cloth. This destructive end-run around the detention and removal system Congress created must end.”
Attorneys for both sides said they would be willing to meet and discuss whether some aspects of the rules aren’t subject to the settlement. Gee gave them until October 4 to do so.