Skip to main content

Judge Rules Against Trump Administration Over Detention Of Migrant Children

Immigrants walk down the hall of a dormitory at the U.S. government's newest ...

Photo by Eric Gay / AP

Above: Immigrants walk down the hall of a dormitory at the U.S. government's newest holding center for migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas, Tuesday, July 9, 2019.

KPBS Midday Edition Segments podcast branding

A federal judge in Los Angeles on Friday tentatively decided the Trump administration's new rules to hold migrant children indefinitely are illegal.

Aired: September 27, 2019 | Transcript

A federal judge in Los Angeles on Friday blocked the Trump administration's new rules that allow the government to indefinitely hold migrant children, caught at the border.

Judge Dolly M. Gee from the Central District of California court said the new rules — one of a series of measures taken by the administration to crack down on asylum seekers on the Southwest border — violate the so-called Flores settlement agreement.

“Just because you tell me it is night outside doesn't mean it is not day,” Gee told Department of Justice lawyers.

When it was time for the plaintiff's attorneys to speak, they said they had nothing to add to her ruling.

"It's day out," attorney Carlos Holguin, who was one of the lead litigators in the case that led to the settlement back in 1997, said in court.

The longstanding settlement governs the detention conditions for immigrant families and children, including how long they can be held by the government

The Trump administration had argued that the 1997 agreement should be terminated under the new rules.

Immigrant and youth advocates say the rules fail to honor the settlement terms and would let the U.S. government keep children locked up indefinitely and in facilities that aren't licensed by the state.

Gee said that the government would have to issue a rule that honors the agreement or have congress create new laws regarding the detention of minors.

"This isn’t about border control. This is about treating children who are already in federal custody in a way that’s decent," Holguin told KPBS after the hearing.

Holly Cooper, another attorney for the plaintiffs, added that the government has often violated the Flores Settlement Agreement.

"This summer, saw some of the most dramatic violations of the Flores Settlement yet. We saw reports of children saying they were held in cells alone, without adequate access to water, without access to urgent healthcare. We've seen multiple deaths this year," Cooper told KPBS. "It's important to have this external accountability for the federal government on how it's detaining children, how long it's detaining children, and under what conditions."

The Flores settlement established a 20-day limit on detaining families in immigration jails. Trump and his supporters have called the system "catch and release."

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.