De­tain­ing of fam­i­lies in­tended to stop surge

Trump sees rise in de­por­ta­tions

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

The Border Pa­trol has caught — and im­me­di­ately re­leased — more than 137,000 il­le­gal im­mi­grant par­ents and chil­dren trav­el­ing to­gether as fam­i­lies over the past five months.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion last week took a ma­jor step to try to end that prac­tice by an­nounc­ing a reg­u­la­tion that will al­low the fam­i­lies to be de­tained, par­ents and chil­dren to­gether, giv­ing them the chance to get faster hear­ings and, if they lose their cases, speedy de­por­ta­tions.

The move is per­haps the most dar­ing yet by Pres­i­dent Trump and his team as they try to gain a han­dle on the record­set­ting surge of mi­grant fam­i­lies that has over­whelmed the U.S.-Mex­ico border, led to emer­gency dec­la­ra­tions in com­mu­ni­ties from Ari­zona to New Mex­ico, and left Congress tied in knots.

The pres­i­dent said the goal is to change the think­ing: If il­le­gal im­mi­grants are de­tained, then they can be de­ported. Once oth­ers see the de­por­ta­tions, they will think twice about mak­ing the dan­ger­ous trip.

“They won’t come. And many peo­ple will be saved,” the pres­i­dent told re­porters at the White House.

Mr. Trump is propos­ing rules to re­place a 1997 court agree­ment, the Flores set­tle­ment, which lays out con­di­tions for how chil­dren should be treated once they are caught at the border.

The agree­ment lays out stan­dards for how quickly chil­dren must be pro­cessed, guar­an­tees ac­cess to san­i­tary con­di­tions, med­i­cal care, cloth­ing and food, and even dic­tates an hour of out­door re­cre­ation time, weather per­mit­ting.

For nearly two decades, the agree­ment ap­plied only to ju­ve­niles who showed up at the border with­out par­ents — un­ac­com­pa­nied alien chil­dren, or UAC, in gov­ern­ments­peak.

But in 2015, Judge Dolly Gee, an Obama ap­pointee to a fed­eral court in California, ruled that the agree­ment also would ap­ply to chil­dren who came with par­ents. She im­posed a 20-day limit on de­ten­tion, which was too short to com­plete their cases.

The Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity be­gan to process and re­lease fam­i­lies al­most im­me­di­ately, and the num­ber of fam­i­lies jump­ing the border be­gan to soar as word got out that bring­ing a child was close to a free pass for adults who sneaked into the U.S.

Act­ing Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Kevin McAleenan said the new rules erase the 20-day limit but keep in place many of the other stan­dards for care of chil­dren.

The rule will take ef­fect 60 days af­ter its pub­li­ca­tion in the Fed­eral Reg­is­ter Aug. 23, un­less Judge Gee or an­other court steps in to halt it.

Stephen Yale-Loehr, a Cor­nell Univer­sity pro­fes­sor and an­a­lyst on im­mi­gra­tion law, said he ex­pects judges to do just that.

“Fed­eral courts have struck down al­most ev­ery ef­fort this ad­min­is­tra­tion has made to cur­tail the rights of im­mi­grants. When will Pres­i­dent Trump re­al­ize that im­mi­grants in the U.S. have due process rights?” he said.

The lat­est im­mi­gra­tion court num­bers sug­gest that most of the fam­i­lies don’t have a good case for asy­lum. Of fam­ily cases heard in a 10-city pi­lot program over the past year, less than one-fifth of im­mi­grants who showed up won re­lief. In the other 81% of cases, they self-de­ported or were or­dered re­moved.

Other times, the fam­i­lies didn’t show at all and were or­dered re­moved in ab­sen­tia.

Mr. McAleenan said he ex­pects le­gal chal­lenges but said the new rule is on firm foot­ing. The Flores set­tle­ment ex­plic­itly says that if the govern­ment writes rules that carry out the goals of the agree­ment, then Flores will ex­pire.

The ar­gu­ment in court will be over whether the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan is true to Flores’ orig­i­nal in­tent.

The De­part­ments of Home­land Se­cu­rity and Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, which are jointly re­spon­si­ble for the rule, said they re­ceived and re­viewed more than 100,000 com­ments about a draft pro­posal.

Trump crit­ics tripped over one an­other to de­nounce the fi­nal ver­sion.

United We Dream, one ac­tivist group, said de­tain­ing fam­i­lies was “tor­ture.” The Con­gres­sional His­panic Cau­cus said keeping the fam­i­lies to­gether in de­ten­tion was treat­ing them “as if they are crim­i­nals.”

The Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion said hold­ing chil­dren in de­ten­tion, even with their fam­i­lies, will cause trauma and men­tal health prob­lems that the ju­ve­niles will deal with for years.

“The ad­min­is­tra­tion is seek­ing to cod­ify child abuse, plain and sim­ple,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Demo­crat, who la­beled the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­posal “in­def­i­nite de­ten­tion.”

Mr. McAleenan said that wasn’t the goal nor the reality. He said the cases could be com­pleted in about 50 days, and then mi­grants will learn whether they are be­ing de­ported or whether they have earned some sta­tus.

“There is no in­tent to hold fam­i­lies for a long pe­riod of time,” he said. “That is the in­tent for a fair but ex­pe­di­tious im­mi­gra­tion pro­ceed­ing.”

It’s the same tac­tic the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion used in 2014 and 2015 when it faced a sim­i­lar, though smaller, surge of il­le­gal im­mi­grant fam­i­lies. Then-Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Jeh John­son or­dered an ex­pan­sion of fam­ily de­ten­tion fa­cil­i­ties to keep par­ents and chil­dren to­gether and to de­port them when their cases were pro­cessed.

Mr. McAleenan said that is more fair to every­one in­volved. Those who win their cases get sta­tus faster, and those who lose them are sent home faster. When fam­i­lies in other coun­tries see friends and rel­a­tives be­ing de­ported, he said, they will think twice about mak­ing the jour­ney.

He also dis­puted ac­cu­sa­tions that the de­ten­tion fa­cil­i­ties amount to tor­ture.

Mr. McAleenan de­scribed one of the ex­ist­ing three fa­cil­i­ties, in Berks, Penn­syl­va­nia, as sim­i­lar to a ho­tel or dorm. It is di­vided into suites so each fam­ily is housed sep­a­rately, with fur­ni­ture, linens and toi­letries pro­vided. The com­mu­nal room has big-screen tele­vi­sions, a gam­ing area and a li­brary, and there is a set of class­rooms so the chil­dren don’t miss out on school.

Soc­cer fields, arts-and-crafts classes and movie nights are also on of­fer.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has about 3,000 fam­ily de­ten­tion beds in three fa­cil­i­ties. It asked for more money for fam­ily de­ten­tion in the emer­gency border spend­ing bill this year, but Congress re­fused to fund that part of the re­quest.

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