The U.S. government argued in a court filing on Friday that it has the right to detain children and parents caught crossing the U.S. border illegally for the entire duration of their immigration proceedings, instead of releasing immigrant children after 20 days as required by the 1997 Flores agreement.
The court settlement from 1997 says that the Department of Homeland Security is to release illegal immigrant children from custody after 20 days.
Reuters writes that the Justice Department lawyers’ argument presented in the filing in U.S. District Court in California was based on a preliminary injunction issued on Tuesday in a separate immigration case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union in San Diego, which challenged the recent government policy of separating families in order to detain parents for as long as necessary under President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy.
The policy was first implemented in May and since then over 2,000 children have been separated from their parents and are now under government care.
However, the President signed an executive order earlier this month reversing the policy, and an injunction in San Diego ordered the government to immediately stop separating parents and children, who were to be reunited no later than 30 days. To comply with the injunction, the government said Friday it “will not separate families but detain families together during the pendency of immigration proceedings.”
Under previous administrations, a “catch-and-release” policy often led to parents and children being released to pursue immigration claims at liberty in the United States. President Trump has criticized this policy, which he claims only invites violence into the country and vowed to detain all those who migrate into the U.S. illegally.