Advertisement
World

19 states suing over Trump administration’s rollback of child immigrant protections

WATCH ABOVE: 19 states announce lawsuit against Trump administration over rollback of child immigrant protection

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia sued on Monday over the Trump administration’s effort to alter a federal agreement that limits how long immigrant children can be kept in detention.

“We wish to protect children from irreparable harm,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said as he announced the lawsuit he is co-leading with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Both are Democrats.

WATCH: Trump administration ends ‘loophole’ immigration rule that could keep kids in detention for longer

Trump administration ends ‘loophole’ immigration rule that could keep kids in detention for longer
Trump administration ends ‘loophole’ immigration rule that could keep kids in detention for longer

A 1997 agreement known as the Flores settlement says immigrant children must be kept in the least restrictive setting and generally shouldn’t spend more than 20 days in detention.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said last week it would create new regulations on how migrant children are treated. The administration wants to remove court oversight and allow families in detention longer than 20 days. About 475,000 families have crossed the border so far this budget year, nearly three times the previous full-year record for families.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Trump looks to end limits on how long children can be kept in immigration detention

A judge must OK the Trump administration’s proposed changes in order to end the agreement, and a legal battle is expected from the case’s original lawyers.

It’s not likely that U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee would approve the changes; it was her ruling in 2015 that extended the application of the Flores agreement to include children who came with families. She ordered the Obama administration to release children as quickly as possible.

WATCH: Acting DHS Secretary outlines changes to detention policy

Acting DHS Secretary outlines changes to detention policy
Acting DHS Secretary outlines changes to detention policy

Still, Becerra argued California has a role to play in the case because the state is home to so many immigrants.

“The federal government doesn’t have a right to tell us how we provide for the well-being of people in our state,” he said.

California does not have any detention centers that house migrant families. The Trump administration argued that because no states license federal detention centers, they wanted to create their own set of standards in order to satisfy the judge’s requirements that the facilities are licensed.

READ MORE: More than 900 kids separated at U.S. border despite court order: ACLU

They said they will be audited, and the audits made public. But the Flores attorneys are concerned that they will no longer be able to inspect the facilities, and that careful state licensing requirements will be eschewed.

Story continues below advertisement

Becerra echoed that argument, saying that removing state authority over licensing centers could allow the federal government to place centers in California or other states that don’t meet basic standards of care.

WATCH: Trump admin says ‘perception’ that migrants can successfully make it to the U.S. must change

Trump admin says ‘perception’ that migrants can successfully make it to the U.S. must change
Trump admin says ‘perception’ that migrants can successfully make it to the U.S. must change

Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington, also a Democrat, said prolonged detention will have long-term impacts on the mental and physical health of immigrant children and families.

“When we welcome those children into our communities, state-run programs and services bear the burden of the long-term impact of the trauma those children endured in detention,” he said.

READ MORE: Children of undocumented migrants detained in record ICE raid rely on neighbours for food

California on Monday also sought to halt a Trump administration effort that could deny green cards to immigrants using public benefits.

Other states joining the lawsuit are Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.