U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee of California said in her decision Monday not to amend Flores v. Reno and that “absolutely nothing” prevents President Trump from reconsidering their current blanket policy of family detention. And, Tuesday is the deadline for the administration to reunite children under five with families — but only half will have that opportunity.
Peter Schev, president of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law and co-lead counsel on the initial 1985 lawsuit, said the court found that the Flores settlement never resulted in family separation. He called the reasoning for family separations by Trump’s administration “the government’s false narrative,” and said that “Trump needs to take responsibility for his own misguided policies.”
Trump wanted maximum flexibility with detention so the Department of Justice could hold parents until the end of criminal proceedings and asylum proceedings, which could’ve been months. He also wanted fewer restrictions on what types of facilities minors could be held in.
Gee, who was nominated by former President Obama, called the administration’s request “a cynical attempt” to shift responsibility to the court “for over 20 years of Congressional inaction and ill-considered executive action that have led to the current stalemate.”
The DOJ’s response to Gee’s ruling:
“We disagree with the court’s ruling declining to amend the Flores Agreement to recognize the current crisis of families making the dangerous and unlawful journey across our southern border, but the court does appear to acknowledge that parents who cross the border will not be released and must choose between remaining in family custody with their children pending immigration proceedings or requesting separation from their children so the child may be placed with a sponsor.”
Justice Department lawyer Sarah Fabian said 54 of the 100 or so infants and toddlers would be reunited on time, while the ones who were delayed were due to reasons like deportation of family members. There are still thousands of children who remain separated from their loved ones.
Families can be detained together if parents waive their rights to give family members custody of their children.
The reunification, headed by the Department of Homeland Security, will consist of children being transported to undisclosed locations around the country. Some will be reunited in their home country of Guatemala. DNA testing will be used to help confirm rightful reunification with family members.