A coalition of 19 states and Washington, D.C., announced a lawsuit Aug. 23 against President Donald Trump’s administration’s proposed regulation that would allow the administration to detain children with traveling migrant families indefinitely. This proposal would replace an existing agreement that puts court-imposed time limits on the detention of migrant children.
The existing rule, known as the Flores settlement, establishes minimum standards for holding facilities that contain migrant families. It requires the government to release children to their parents or guardians without unnecessary delay and enforces a 20-day holding period.
Imposed in 1997, the settlement also ensures that a specified level of care be provided for children in holding. In 2015, the rule was expanded to apply not just to unaccompanied children but also to those traveling with parents.
Trump issued statements claiming current detention limits offer a “catch-and-release” option for immigrants, and administration officials say it is a “pull” factor for migrants who show up at the border expecting temporary asylum while they wait for an immigration lawsuit. The proposed rule would specifically abolish the 20-day detention limit for children and families and establish new minimum standard conditions in detention centers where they are kept.
The impending lawsuit argues that the Trump administration’s proposed regulation will endanger migrant children by removing state licensing requirements for detention centers. It also contends the new rule will likely lead to the expansion of for-profit detention centers, thus creating a financial incentive for the increased detention of migrant families.
The lawsuit is led by California and Massachusetts; it’s the 13th lawsuit against the federal administration led by the state of California on immigration-related issues. In July, the state sued the federal government over the lack of soap, clean water and toothbrushes available to detained migrant children and families.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, one of the primary lawmakers behind the current lawsuit against the administration, said the 20-state coalition is battling the Trump administration to protect children from irreparable harm caused by unnecessary detention.
“This new Trump rule callously puts at risk the safety and well-being of children,” the statement said. “It undermines a decades-old agreement reached in court by the federal government to prevent the unlawful detention of immigrant children.”
The states also allege the proposal violates the Administrative Procedure Act and the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.
If executed, the new federal detention center guidelines will take effect in October.