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COMMENT for immigrant families during public comment period Background: "Trump administration to circumvent court limits on detention of child migrants By Nick Miroff, Maria Sacchetti September 6, 2018 at 8:49 PM The Trump administration took the first official step Thursday toward withdrawing from a court agreement limiting the government’s ability to hold minors in immigration jails, a move that could lead to the rapid expansion of detention facilities and more time in custody for children. The Flores settlement compels the government to hold migrant children in the least-restrictive setting possible, and mandates that those facilities are licensed. But while states typically license child-care facilities, none issue licenses to family detention centers. According to a DHS statement, the government will ensure new detention facilities meet standards, “as evaluated by a third-party entity engaged by ICE.” The announcement does not indicate whom the third party would be. The administration’s attempt to withdraw from the settlement could revive still-simmering anger over the separation of more than 2,600 migrant children from their parents during President Trump’s border crackdown, mostly in the spring. The proposed regulations would not take effect immediately. Publishing them in the Federal Register triggers a 60-day period for public comments (HERE: The proposal comes weeks after the Trump administration was denied permission to detain children for unlimited periods of time. Gee, the judge who oversees the Flores agreement, in July rebuked the Justice Department’s request, calling it “a cynical attempt, on an ex parte basis, to shift responsibility to the judiciary for over 20 years of congressional inaction and ill-considered executive action that have led to the current stalemate.” Also in July, Gee ordered the appointment of an independent monitor to enhance oversight of child detention standards, citing “persistent problems” and a need to “cut through disputes over what is happening on the ground.” If Gee enjoins the government’s latest attempt to modify Flores, the administration could appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, but that court — regarded as one of the country’s most liberal — could also be a challenging venue for the administration. Immigrant advocates and attorneys acknowledge the government has the authority to create regulations to replace the Flores settlement, but they worry that officials will weaken substantive protections in its quest to deport more migrant families. For instance, the Trump administration is also seeking greater flexibility to decide when to give children snacks or whether to transfer them quickly from the austere border facilities to more family-friendly environments, as the Flores settlement requires. The regulations would also strip unaccompanied minors of special protections under the law — such as the right to seek asylum before a trained asylum officer instead of in the more adversarial immigration courts — if they came to America to join parents who are already here. Advocates for immigrants condemned the proposal Thursday and vowed to fight it from taking effect. “All of these point to a desire to keep more children in jail longer,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s immigrants’ rights project. “You don’t need to be an expert to know that the effect of putting a kid in jail with or without other family members is serious and could be a lifelong trauma.”

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