New Trump Rule Will Keep Migrant Families Together -- In Jail! Forever!
The Trump administration will publish new rules Friday aimed at gutting the Flores settlement agreement, the 1997 consent decree that set up rules for how the government can treat migrant children in detention. Stephen Miller will finally realize his dream of getting rid of the Flores provision that prevents the government from imprisoning children for more than 20 days, and a glorious new day will dawn when asylum-seeking families can be imprisoned indefinitely. Eliminating Flores has been one of Miller's top priorities, because he believes that not treating immigrants cruelly enough is the main reason people seek asylum in the first place. Now if Miller and Trump could simply eliminate the courts where the new rules will be challenged, we'd finally have an America to be proud of.
The new rules will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, and would go into effect 60 days later under normal federal rule-making procedure, but nothing is normal about these rules, which will face immediate legal challenges from the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups. The first hurdle they face will be from US District Court judge Dolly Gee, who oversees ongoing litigation in the Flores case. The New York Times explains,
The government will have seven days to file a brief in her court seeking her approval of the regulation.
If she refuses, the administration is expected to appeal her decision in a case that could drag on for months or even years, legal experts said.
The rules would do away with two key provisions of the existing Flores framework. First, they would eliminate the existing rules for treatment of detained minors, particularly the 20-day limit on detaining minors, which the government considers a "loophole" in immigration law that attracts migrants to the US -- because obviously all asylum claims are fake. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would then be free to detain families together until their asylum cases are finally decided and they are either released or deported. In a press release, Homeland Security insists the Flores rules would be replaced by "high" standards of care for families in detention that would for sure be just as good as the Flores mandate, only while allowing indefinite detention of kids in concentration camps.
The other huge change is that instead of family detention centers being subject to licensure by child protection agencies in the states where they're located, the facilities would be licensed by ICE itself and monitored by a "third-party entity" of ICE's choosing, so don't you worry about the kids being held in crappy conditions, OK? In fact, DHS tries to spin letting the racist fox guard the migrant family centers as being much more gooder than current oversight by meddling state child welfare agencies, because Trust Us:
A national standard of care ensures that care in custody of children and families is not a policy decision, and should not be subject to the ebbs and flows of state and local politics. Instead, all children in the Government's care will be universally treated with dignity, respect, and special concern, in concert with American values and faithful to the intent of the settlement.
Thank goodness the rules promise that audits of ICE family prisons by the selected third-party entity would at least be made public, and that DHS might release detained kids to other relatives already in the USA. But only if it wants to.
But the real goal of the rule changes is the administration's insistence that America is being snookered by wily asylum seekers who aren't really in any danger in their home countries. Again and again, the DHS statement insists the Flores rules are an "incentive" to human traffickers, even though most research indicates terrible conditions in asylum seekers' home countries is a huge factor in migration. The government's insistence that migration is primarily due to "pull factors" like the availability of asylum or the Flores agreement simply doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Not that research even matters to the administration, since cruelty alone is good for getting votes.
DHS insists its family camps are just delightful places for children, despite the universal agreement among child development experts and human beings with common sense that growing up in prison is not healthy for children -- yes, even if they have classrooms, playgrounds, and three hot meals a day, which DHS touts as some kind of proof of what nice summer camps these really are. Acting DHS Director Kevin McAleenan tried to sound as if he wished he could live in one of the three current ICE camps himself, saying one facility has a room with "a big-screen television, cushioned couches and lounge chairs, a gaming area and a separate library that contains books, other television sets, video games and board games."
That sounds great, and exactly like any number of listings for fleabag apartments that have "DE-LUXE community facilities" and "landscaped grounds." As the Times points out:
Critics of the administration have long argued that the facilities were unsuitable for children for long periods of time. Lawmakers and others who have visited the facilities have described hourslong waits in the heat for medical care, spoiled food and limited education opportunities for children who remain in detention for long periods.
And again: prolonged imprisonment is not good for children, no matter how nice the rec room allegedly is.
Still, acting US Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli positively beamed in a tweet announcing yesterday was "Flores fix day," as if it were a great big holiday to celebrate:
And now, it's time for some lawsuits to keep this latest phase of the New Cruelty in check. Judge Gee isn't likely to be pleased by the new rules. As the Washington Post notes, Donald Trump's executive order last summer to "end" family separation already
directed the attorney general to ask Gee to let the government detain families together "throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings for improper entry or any removal or other immigration proceedings."
Gee declined, calling the move "a cynical attempt, on an ex parte basis, to shift responsibility to the judiciary for over 20 years of congressional inaction and ill-considered executive action that have led to the current stalemate."
In other immigration fuckery yesterday, Donald Trump said once again that he's "seriously" "looking at" ending birthright citizenship, although since it's literally written into the Constitution in the 14th Amendment, it's anybody's guess as to how he thinks he'd do that. Maybe an executive order that would immediately be shot down in the courts? Nothing may actually come of what sounded like more Patented Trump Helicopter Bullshit, but his whims often end up becoming "policy."
We'd like to think that even the rightwing Roberts Court would hesitate to let a president unilaterally change the Constitution and decades of precedent, but we DO live in the crapsack judicial universe now, so we honestly wouldn't even be all that surprised to see a return to Plessy v. Ferguson, either.
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