Trump Administration Wants to Detain Migrant Children Indefinitely

Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan holds a news conference to announce new rules about how migrant children and families are treated in federal custody at the Ronald Reagan Building August 21, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Image: Getty

Since 1997, the Flores Settlement Agreement—named after a 15-year-old El Salvadorian refugee who endured brutish conditions while she was detained in U.S. custody in the 1980s—has been the bedrock for improved immigration standards in the United States. On Wednesday, the Trump administration presented a plan that they hope wipes away those regulations for good.

Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan—a full-grown goon with a haircut better suited for a small child—announced that migrant families will now be held in detention for the duration of their immigration proceedings, which NBC News describes as having “no limit on the time they can be detained.” This contradicts the Flores Agreement, which requires that undocumented children cannot spend more than 20 days in detention before being released to a family member or placed in a licensed care facility.


While the Obama administration also bumped up against the Flores Agreement on its own rocky immigration track record, the Trump administration has been particularly hostile toward it. From the New York Times:

The Trump administration railed against the “legal loopholes” in the consent decree and tried mightily to upend it. The Flores agreement, the administration argued, helped create the current chaos at the border by providing an incentive for migrant parents to bring their children with them — the equivalent, under the current legal framework, of a get-out-of-jail-free card.

In fact, the Flores agreement inspired the Trump administration’s disastrous “zero-tolerance” child-separation policy of 2018, which left thousands of migrant children separated from their parents as a cruel incentive to curtail asylum and undocumented entry.

While court challenges will likely slow down or stop Trump from enacting this policy, it’s part of the administration’s ever-increasing trend towards hostility against immigrants. This announcement comes one week after Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services and longtime asshole, announced that the Trump administration will make it more difficult for low-income green card holders to become permanent residents if they use government benefits like Medicaid, food stamps, or Section 8 housing vouchers.


At this point, the Trump administration’s cruelty is wholly unsurprising to anyone paying attention. But the myriad ways its cruelty manifests never fails to astonish.

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About the author

Ashley Reese

Staff writer, mint chocolate hater.