A Los Angeles federal judge Friday blocked the Trump Administration’s attempt to lengthen the amount of time children in immigration custody can be held behind bars.
U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee’s decision rejected both the Trump Administration’s bid to terminate the so-called Flores settlement agreement and the administration’s attempt to indefinitely detain migrant families who illegally cross the border. If put into effect, the new rule would have abolished a 20-day cap on detaining families in immigration jails.
“The Flores Settlement Agreement remains in effect and has not been terminated,” Gee wrote in a two-page order filed in Los Angeles federal court.
She wrote that the government’s new regulations “fail to implement and are inconsistent with” the terms of the agreement.
A Department of Justice spokesman expressed disappointment in Gee’s ruling.
“The Department of Justice is disappointed that the court is continuing to impose the outdated Flores agreement even after the government has done exactly what the agreement required: issue a comprehensive rule that will protect vulnerable children, maintain family unity and ensure due process for those awaiting adjudication of their immigration claims,” the DOJ spokesman said.
The two-decade-old Flores settlement agreement outlines a minimum standard of care for migrant children in U.S. custody. The agreement has been in place since 1997 and is overseen by Gee in Los Angeles federal court.
In August, the Trump Administration announced an effort to end the agreement. The state of California immediately filed suit opposing the new rule.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra applauded Gee’s decision. The government’s new rule, among other things, “risked irreparable harm to children through prolonged detention and would have circumvented the critical role played by states in setting standards for the care of vulnerable children in state-licensed facilities,” according to Becerra.
“By attempting to terminate the Flores Agreement, the Trump Administration recklessly jeopardized the physical and emotional health of children,” Becerra said. “It’s already clear that the Trump Administration has little regard for the basic human rights of children who have been kept in federal custody without access to necessities like soap or a place to sleep. We applaud the plaintiffs for putting a stop to the new regulations. With our partners around the country, we’ll continue to stand steadfast to protect the rights of the most vulnerable among us.”
Also in August, a federal appeals court upheld a judge’s order that the Trump Administration must provide basic personal hygiene items and adequate bedding to children being held at detention facilities. The ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals backed the Flores agreement, which guarantees all detained immigrant children humane treatment and the right to be promptly released unless they are a flight risk or a danger to themselves or others.
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