A Trump administration proposal this week to lift court-ordered limits on the length of time it can detain immigrant children drew swift rebukes from U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro.
The two Connecticut Democrats issued press statements objecting to the proposal that would replace the 1997 Flores Settlement dictating how long the government can hold migrant children, and under what conditions.
The Trump administration wants to be able to hold migrant children until their cases are resolved, regardless of how long it takes. They argue that their proposed regulations would satisfy the “basic purpose” of Flores by making sure that children are treated with “dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors,” according to National Public Radio.
“Today, legal loopholes significantly hinder the Department’s ability to appropriately detain and promptly remove family units that have no legal basis to remain in the country,” said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a statement.
Blumenthal called the effort “despicable and heartless” and said the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Homeland Security should instead focus on reunifying separated families, improving conditions at federal detention facilities, and treating children already in custody with dignity.
“I will continue to fight to protect vulnerable children — and hold this Administration accountable for its reckless and cruel attempts to harm and strip children of protection under the law,” he said.
DeLauro said the rule change would undermine the Flores Settlement Agreement, rolling back more than 20 years of judicial precedent.
“Though Trump officials are characterizing their actions as necessary to keep families together, in reality, this new rule would put families in cages and hold immigrant children in jail-like conditions for an indefinite period of time. That is not a solution to the manufactured crisis at the border — it simply trades one abhorrent policy of government-sanctioned child abuse for another,” she said.
DeLauro noted that in June, the House voted 301-121 to reject H.R. 6136, the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018, that contained the exact same proposal.
“Instead of doubling down on this failed policy, President Trump and his administration should focus on reuniting children with their families humanely, permanently, and quickly,” she said.