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Expansion of migrant family detention sought

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

The Trump administration is moving forward with a plan to end a court settlement that limits detention of migrant children to 20 days.

The new rule announced Wednesday by acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan would formally terminate the Flores Settlement, allowing parents with children who arrive at the border to be detained rather than released while their cases move through immigration court.

“By eliminating the incentive to make the journey to the United States as a family, the new rule will reduce the unprecedented volume of family units that has strained the already limited resources of our department components,” McAleenan said.

The new rule, scheduled to be published Friday, would keep families together and establish a “high national standard for care of parents and children in custody,” according to McAleenan.

Immigrant advocates balked at the effort to terminate the 1997 court settlement designed to protect migrant children and prevent them from being held in detention indefinitely.

“The government should not be jailing kids, and certainly shouldn’t be seeking to put more kids in jail for longer. Congress must not fund this,” said Madhuri Grewal, American Civil Liberties Union policy counsel, in a statement released by the ACLU. The rule will take effect 60 days after it’s published but will no doubt be challenged in court.

Immigrant advocates in New Mexico said expanding family detention is just the latest crackdown designed to deter asylum-seeking migrants.

“I think it’s just a continuation of the policy of cruelty against immigrants that this administration is prioritizing,” said Johana Bencomo, director of community organizing for NM Cafe.

“None of this is actually helpful for what’s happening at the border,” Bencomo said. She said she doubts it will stop migration from Central America.

“When there’s poverty and crime, people continue to flee for survival. That’s just human instinct,” she said.

Large groups of migrants are again arriving at the border in the Bootheel area after a lull in activity the past couple of months.

Border Patrol agents took 196 people into custody at about 3 a.m. Sunday near the Antelope Wells border crossing. Most were Central American parents with children, according to Border Patrol.

After reaching a record of 88,630 family members arriving at the border in the month of May alone, the number of asylum seekers sharply declined over the summer. In June, Mexico’s president deployed the National Guard to its borders and the U.S. expanded the Migrant Protection Protocol requiring many migrants to remain in Mexico until their asylum cases are decided in U.S. immigration court. There’s also been a seasonal dip in border crossings during the summer.

The new rule might prevent another surge in migration, according to McAleenan, “by closing the key loophole in Flores” and eliminating “the major pull factor fueling the current crisis.”


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