While the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their families may be over, a new rule targeting those children will go into effect this November.
On Thursday, NBC News reported that the White House was seeking to override the 1997 Flores Settlement (the result of the Flores v. Reno case) — which stated that immigrant children can only be detained for 20 days — with a new rule that would allow them to be kept in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers for an indefinite period of time while awaiting trial.
The Department of Homeland Security told NBC that usually, immigrant children and their parents wait for an average of 39 days before their case comes before an immigration judge. Under the Flores Settlement, children kept in immigrant detention centers have to be released after a three-week period. However, if a judge has a backlog of cases awaiting a decision, the time it takes for a family to have their day in court could potentially be much longer.
In a public statement, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen suggested that the new rule could serve as a deterrent for future immigrant families attempting to illegally cross the Southern border of the U.S. in the future.
“Today, legal loopholes significantly hinder the Department’s ability to appropriately detain and promptly remove family units that have no legal basis to remain in the country,” Nielsen stated. “This rule addresses one of the primary pull factors for illegal immigration and allows the federal government to enforce immigration laws as passed by Congress.”
The new rule shows the White House is still taking a hard-line approach to immigration in spite of having to walk back its wildly unpopular policy of taking immigrant children away from their parents when arrested at the border. Even though a federal judge in July ordered the government to reunite children with their parents, many are still isolated. The Washington Post estimated last week that there were still 497 minors separated from their parents — including nearly two dozen “tender age” children under the age of five.
Despite Thursday’s announcement, the administration’s new rule won’t go into effect until 60 days from now — right around the same time as the 2018 midterm elections.
Nick Jewell is a freelance political writer, and a proud resident of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.