States Sue To Keep Trump From Jailing Babies Forever, Because That's Where We Are As A Nation
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia sued in federal court yesterday to block the Trump administration from moving forward with new rules that would allow migrant kids and their families to be held by ICE indefinitely. The lawsuit, led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, seeks to stop Team Trump from gutting the 1997 Flores settlement agreement, which currently sets standards for care of migrant minors in detention. Trump and his immigration Obersturmbannführer Stephen Miller want to get rid of Flores because it says children can't be held in detention more than 20 days, which gets in the way of the administration's goal of locking up all asylum seekers until their cases are completed. Becerra said Monday that aggression will not stand, man:
No child deserves to be left in conditions inappropriate and harmful for their age [...] The actions by this administration are not just morally reprehensible, they're illegal. Children don't become subhuman simply because they are migrants.
The Los Angeles Times notes that this makes the 57th lawsuit California has filed against the administration, and the 13th to involve immigration. Way to go, California!
The proposed Trump rules, published in the Federal Register Friday, wouldn't just get rid of the 20-day limit on detaining kids (which the government has repeatedly violated already). It would also allow ICE to ignore state licensing guidelines for detention facilities, and would eliminate the presumption that all children should be eligible for release from custody. The states' lawsuit is the first of several expected attempts to keep Flores's protections for migrant kids in place.
The Trump administration argues -- without any real evidence -- that Flores is a "loophole" in immigration policy that attracts migrants with families, although the instability and death in Central America just might play a greater factor in families' decisions to travel thousands of miles to seek asylum. As of yet, the administration has yet to present any migrant parents who've said they were looking for some of that sweet, sweet only-20-days-in-baby-jail for their kids.
Even so, Donald Trump last week tried to spin indefinite detention as proof of just how much he cares about the children, the poor innocent children:
"Very much I have the children on my mind. It bothers me very greatly," the president told reporters at the White House. "When they see you can't get into the United States ... they won't come. And many people will be saved. Many women's lives will not be destroyed."
Warren Binford, the Willamette University law school professor who in June helped expose the abuses of migrant kids in Border Patrol custody, says that's bullshit, thank you very much, telling the Atlantic's Barbara Bradley Hagerty it's "absurd" to think parents will stop fleeing Central America if America's detention centers just ladle out more cruelty.
Detention in a U.S. facility pales compared with what many migrants face back home. Binford recalls one boy telling her that he fled his country after a gang decapitated his best friend in front of him. The boy is willing to wait years if necessary in a U.S. detention facility—"anywhere but back where they're going to decapitate him too."
So far, Trump isn't quite ready to start proposing decapitations as a deterrent to migrants. But with a "president" who laughs at the idea of shooting migrants, it may only be a matter of time. Hagerty spoke to a Salvardoran man who said even last year's family separation policy, awful and psychologically damaging to children though it was, wouldn't have deterred him from seeking asylum for his children, because it's asylum, you know?
The truth is, I would have still risked coming with them. It would have been much worse to have gangs murder my children than separate them from me.
We are somewhat loath to point this out, lest it convince administration officials that we really do need to listen to the idiots on Twitter who think a few massacres might send the needed message.
Trump's claim that he has the poor little kids on his mind, and simply wants to make sure their parents keep them home and in danger for their own good, didn't carry much weight with California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who said at the presser announcing the lawsuit Trump's concern for the children was "laughable and ludicrous."
"The policies of this administration are exacerbating the early childhood trauma of young children, seven, by the way, who have lost their lives," Newsom said.
Because the new rules take licensing of family detention centers away from the states, the lawsuit argues, that
interferes with the states' ability to help ensure the health, safety and welfare of children by undermining state licensing requirements for facilities where children are held. The complaint also says the Trump administration rule will result in the vast expansion of family detention centers, which are not state-licensed facilities and have been found to cause increased trauma in children.
The lawsuit says the rule will lead to prolonged detention for children, with significant long-term negative health consequences.
One legal expert told the LA Times the states' suit may have a rough go of it, however, since immigration policy is a federal concern. Pepperdine University law professor Robert Pushaw said that
unless the new rule does not comply with administrative procedures for changing regulations, "the states' lawsuit will probably fail if it gets to the U.S. Supreme Court."
However, he added, "it is entirely possible that a lower federal court will give the states a temporary victory, perhaps by holding that the Trump administration is depriving the immigrant children of liberty without first affording them due process of law."
Additional legal challenges are expected, including from the ACLU and other groups representing immigrant families, who might not face that "standing" argument since they're directly affected by the new policy. And federal judge Dolly Gee, who oversees ongoing litigation in Flores, is very unlikely to sign off on the rule change, which will launch an appeal by the government, so the lawsuits could take months or even years. There's also a fair chance that some sane people might even take charge of the nation's immigration policy before Miller and Trump are able to trash Flores altogether. But that would require sane people to vote.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.