California families and friends of immigrants are probably aware of the controversy that has surrounded the Trump administration's policy of separating children from parents and detaining them apart from their parents, who in some cases have been deported while the children remain in custody. Over 2,900 children were separated and detained in the initial stages of the policy, sparking international outrage over what has been characterized by critics as inhumane treatment of immigrant children. Now, the Department of Homeland Security has announced plans to circumvent the standing rule that required the release of children within 20 days of their detention.
The court-ordered guideline known as the Flores Agreement stems from an agreed order in a 1997 case dealing with child detention. The United States government had agreed to abide by the agreement until the Trump administration began its policy of separating and indefinitely holding children. Having come under fire for separating children from parents, the Trump administration now intends to keep families together in detention until the date of their hearing, which can result in children remaining in custody far longer than the 20-day limit from the Flores Agreement.
The government contends that keeping families together in detention will result in speedier trials. Immigrant advocacy groups maintain that any change in policy resulting in extended detention of children is illegal and unacceptable. The proposed policy is likely to land in court before it can be implemented, giving the judicial branch an opportunity to weigh in and potentially moderate what have been called extreme tactics of the administration.
Immigration laws can be complicated, and their interpretation is in a state of transition. Attorneys who practice immigration law may constantly stay abreast of legal and policy developments in an effort to provide guidance for families and individuals concerned about border-related policies in the United States.