Federal judge rules against Trump administration's child-detainee policy

A federal judge rejected the Justice Department's attempt to legally justify the prolonged detainment of immigrant children.
By Rick Docksai | Nov 28, 2018
A federal judge rejected on Monday a Justice Department attempt to modify a law limiting the circumstances and length of time under which U.S. law enforcement may detain immigrant children. In her ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Ghee derided the DOJ request as "wholly without merit" and added that the administration would be better off "reconsidering their current blanket policy of family detention and reinstating prosecutorial discretion."

The Justice Department had sought last month to modify Flores v. Reno, a 1997 court agreement that limits the detention of immigrant children to 20 days or less. The agreement also requires that immigrant children only be kept in facilities that meet state child welfare licensing regulations.

Justice Department lawyers asked Ghee to modify this agreement to allow the Trump administration to detain children longer. Justice officials were looking for a way to keep family units together while either prosecuting the parents for illegal border crossing or hearing their requests for asylumtwo processes that can drag on for months.

The Justice lawyers also pointed out that another judge had ordered the administration to reunite all separated children ages five and under with their parents by July 10. Watering down the Flores v. Reno agreement would be the only way to comply with this order, they argued.

Ghee did not accept their line of reasoning, however. She blamed the federal government for creating the problem itself with "over 20 years of Congressional inaction and ill-considered executive action that have led to the current stalemate." She noted that there is "no state licensing readily available for facilities that house both adults and children" and said that the government has known this for "years."

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