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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Judge Rules Against Trump Administration Over Detention Of Migrant Children

 September 27, 2019 at 10:44 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 The Trump administration's effort to rewrite the rules governing detention of immigrant children. Got a setback in court today since 1997 the Flores settlement has defined acceptable conditions for the detention of children by the U S government. One of its central provisions is that children must not be kept in immigration custody for longer than 20 days. New Trump administration guidelines are attempting to overrule the settlement, but their arguments did not succeed in federal court today. And joining me is KPBS reporter max Rivlin Nadler. He's on Skype and he's joining us from the courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. Max, welcome to the program. Hi, what happened in court today Speaker 2: 00:42 in court today, judge jolly M G ruled on whether the government could essentially turbinate the Flores settlement agreement. The government last month put out a new rule saying that it had the right to detain families for indefinitely for as long as it deemed fit and the Flores settlement agreement, which you would violate the plaintiffs for that case. Uh, we're back in court once again today to argue that this could not be allowed to go into effect because it was a clear violation of that agreement. Today in court, the judge distributed a draft decision which essentially said what the plaintiffs are arguing is true that the government cannot put this rule into place because it would terminate and the Flores settlement agreement, which by the terms of the agreement cannot be terminated until a rule that actually abides by it is put into place. Speaker 1: 01:36 Let me break this down a little bit and and talk to you about some aspects of the new regulations that the Trump administration wanted to replace the Flores settlement with the Flores settlement contains rules about the way children should be housed and treated in immigration detention. Do the new Trump regulations share those guidelines in any way? Speaker 2: 01:56 They don't. Uh, they don't share the guidelines of the agreement because essentially what the government is saying is that it has the right to detain families. It apprehended at the border indefinitely. The floor settlement agreement has, it's been interpreted by the courts over the past several years. Basically says there is a 20 day limit to how long minors can stay in detention, doesn't matter if they're unaccompanied, doesn't matter if they're with a family. It all that matters is that they are a minor. And that was basically the point of contention is that the government was arguing today that because these are families, it's not something that's covered by the Flores settlement agreement. And basically the judge Dolly mg said, this is what the agreement says regarding miner's families that have minors should be treated the same as regular miners. And you can't change this contract and stressed a number of times that this is essentially contract law. You can't just back out of an agreement that you made, you know, albeit over, you know, 20 years ago because it no longer suits what the government deems as feasible. Speaker 1: 03:02 Now with the administration's asylum ban at the Southern border and the so called remain in Mexico policy in effect, are their families still being detained? Speaker 2: 03:13 Right. So one thing that acting department of Homeland security secretary, Kevin mescaline and said last week was that there will be no more families released into the U S people either be sent back into Mexico or detained under the new rules. Well the problem with that is that there are several cases currently playing out in court that could throw a wrench into the administration's plans. Um, one of those is the fact that the remain in Mexico program is still currently being litigated and in fact has a case coming up in the ninth circuit next week. If remain in Mexico were to be struck down, then you are back in a situation where you are detaining large amounts of families. Of course the number of families in detention and miners in general have gone down over the past several months while remained in Mexico has ramped up. But if it was deemed to violate the law or was put on hold by a higher court, um, that is something that could shoot right back up those numbers. So while it is currently not as important as it's been in the past, the Flores settlement agreement could become central once again to how the U S shapes its policy around detaining families very soon. Speaker 1: 04:25 What does this ruling today mean to children and families who are in detention in immigration detention? Right now Speaker 2: 04:32 what it means is that according to the ruling, they cannot be held in detention for longer than 20 days. If they're an unaccompanied minor, they have to be chained. They have to be given over to office of refugee resettlement custody and placed either with a family member who would like to take them in or they would stay in licensed care provider facilities. Of course these have come under scrutiny over the past year and then if you're a family in detention, again you cannot be held longer than 20 days. That being said, the court appointed monitor for the floor settlement agreement has found that the government has repeatedly violated the terms of the Flores settlement agreement in terms of hygiene, in terms of length of stay in facilities. The government has countered that given the amount of families showing up on our Southern border, they just can't process and place and kind of get people through the process of being detained within 20 days. Um, so you see people held for much longer than 20 days, but ultimately the kind of controlling settlement here is that they do have to eventually be released. Speaker 1: 05:38 Where does this draft ruling go from here? Where does this case go from here? Speaker 2: 05:42 The draft ruling from here is we're probably most likely heading to the higher court. In this case, it'd be been ninth circuit court of appeals where most Flores settlement agreement where almost all Flores settlement agreement peels and up. Every time the government tries to modify the settlement agreement, or in this case, terminate it, you end up in the ninth circuit court of appeals, which has either expanded the Flores settlement agreement or kind of disagreed with what the government is arguing. So I would, you know, depending on what the government would like to do, of course, they haven't filed anything yet, but most likely we will see this case argued once again in the ninth circuit court of appeals. Speaker 1: 06:19 I've been speaking with KPBS reporter max Rivlin Nadler, who's been joining us by Skype from the courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. Max, thank you. Thank you.

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