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Department of Justice Argues for Extended Detention of Immigrant Families

prison-370112_1280-300x199The Department of Justice on Thursday appealed to a federal judge to permit the extension of detention periods for immigrant families that entered the country unlawfully, explaining that detaining families for longer than 20 days “would allow immigrant children to stay with their parents.’’

The Justice Department announced earlier this month that it would fully comply with a federal judge’s order to reunite families separated at the border as a result of a new policy that files criminal charges against those who caught crossing the border illegally. Trump sealed the deal with an order effectively ending the practice.

But, in what has been taken to be an attempt to both detain parents and keep immigrant families together, the Department of Justice promptly followed with a request to extend detention for such families beyond the current limit of 20 days.

“We understand the courts to have provided that minors who are apprehended with families may not be separated from their parents where it is determined that continued detention is appropriate for the parent,” clarified acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler.

He, however, added that this does not mean the government is obliged to comply with the 20-day limit set by the 1997 Flores settlement. As a result, the administration’s Zero Tolerance Policy will remain in place, with immigrant families who crossed the border facing immediate criminal charges but detained together.

“The government will not separate families but detain families together during the pendency of immigration proceedings when they are apprehended at or between ports of entry,” the Justice Department states.

This timeframe is provided by a Trump executive order to modify the Flores settlement allowing for the detention of unlawfully present families together throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings.

The Justice Department, however, argued that to do so would be impossible, pointing out the U.S. government cannot keep detained families together while they wait for their immigration deportation proceedings.

The Department now appears to be retracting the above statement, claiming that it would be possible under current laws after slight modifications to policy.

Critics of the immigration policy are nevertheless concerned about a number of variables that still remain unclear.

  • For one, the fate of the children that were already separated from their families by the time the order was signed is uncertain.
  • Many have also questioned where the government intends to keep the massive population of newly detained immigrants given that the system has already gone past its capacity.

Heather Reynolds, director of the nonprofit Catholic Charities of Fort Worth, which currently houses 12 unaccompanied immigrant children, claims that the new executive order may detail procedure for future child detainees but fails to address those who are currently in the system.

If you would like to learn more about this latest update to U.S. immigration policy, or have a loved one seeking a green card, don’t hesitate to sit down for a consultation with the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225 to talk to immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.