How Long Can Undocumented Immigrant Families Expect to Live in Detention Centers?

How Long Can Undocumented Immigrant Families Expect to Live in Detention Centers?CNN reported on September 6, 1018 that the Trump administration has enacted a policy that undocumented immigrant children stay in detention “far longer than currently allowed.” The statement is a follow-up to the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy enacted in the spring of 2018. Part and parcel of the zero tolerance prosecution policy is to separate parents and children at the US Mexico border. 2,500 families, so far, have been split apart for weeks or months.

The policy is based on a 200-page regulation which exceeds a court-settlement that has been in place for 20 years. The settlement is known as the Flores Settlement Agreement. The new regulation is designed to give the Trump administration broader authority regarding the detention of the separated immigrant children. The contentious issue of how long immigrant children will be separated has numerous supporters and detractors.

The Trump administration arguments in support of the new regulations

The Trump administration claims the 20-year court settlement (it first went into effect in 1997) helps attracts undocumented immigrants. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen stated that the Flores agreement is pulling immigrants to enter the US illegally. Supporters argue that holding families until their immigration case is resolved forces quicker deportation proceedings and makes immigrants less likely to enter the US illegally.

The administration claims the Flores agreement requires that children who enter the US with the parents can’t be detained for more than 20 days. CNN reported that a DHS official stated the average length of a case when an immigrant is being detained is 39 days.

The new regulations would create a federal detention center licensing system that Trump officials assert would better serve the children and the public than state-licensed facilities. Those in favor of the regulations say an independent entity would ensure safety standards.

The arguments of critics of the new regulations

Critics argue that the regulations aren’t in the best interest of the children. They believe that the courts should set the standards and that reason is to better protect children. Philip Wolgin, director of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress, says protections are needed because of complaints many children are being abused while in immigration custody. They claim longer detention periods will adversely affect these children medically and emotionally.

Critics also argue there are “viable and workable alternatives.” Director Wolgin believes the small changes that that supporters of the regulation propose would adversely affect the rights of the children. For example, one change appears “to do away with a requirement for minors in deportation proceedings to have a bond hearing.”

The Flores agreement is being overseen by Judge Dolly Gee who, so far, has not been sympathetic to the Trump administration’s proposals. The Flores agreement was only supposed to be temporary. It has been followed for the last 20 years.

The new proposed regulations are likely to be challenged in court.

The laws, court decisions, and regulations that govern immigration cases are constantly changing. For more than 40 years, the respected Knoxville immigration lawyers at the Law Offices of LaFevor & Slaughter, have been fighting for the rights of immigrants – documented and undocumented. We understand the constant changes that are taking place and fight to protect those who dream of a better life in America. To discuss your case with experienced immigration lawyers, please call 865-637-6258 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment.

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