SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — 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.
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.
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.
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.
By Kathleen Ronayne for NEWSADVANCE.COM
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