Justice Department Signals It Will Hold Migrant Families in Long-Term Detention

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Faced with a judge’s order earlier this week requiring the Trump administration to stop separating migrant children from their parents and reunite already separated families by July, the Justice Department signaled Friday that it likely will seek to hold families together in long-term detention.

In a “Notice of Compliance” filing, the Justice Department indicated the administration would be willing to hold families in detention long-term, something the Obama administration was unwilling to do because of its inherent cruelty.

The filing is a response to both this week’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in the Southern District of California and previous court rulings limiting the detention of immigrant children to 20 days. It says, “The government will not separate families but detain families together during the pendency of immigration proceedings when they are apprehended at or between ports of entry,” The Washington Post reported.


Former Justice Department immigration lawyer Leon Fresco told Axios that this policy would force a “Sophie’s choice” situation for migrant parents in which “either they keep their kids in detention for an extended period of time, or allow them to be taken into the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services.”

“There is no one who thinks the solution to family separation is family detention,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal told MSNBC’s Joy Reid on Saturday.

Under the Obama administration, families often were released prior to their immigration hearings, sometimes with ankle monitors. President Donald Trump has called this policy “catch and release” and vowed to end the practice.

According to the Post, “The Justice Department argued that while the previous settlement had compelled it to release minors ‘without unnecessary delay,’ the new court order, ‘which requires that the minor be kept with the parent, makes delay necessary in these circumstances.’” This means families could be detained for months.


As to Judge Sabraw’s ruling last Tuesday, officials are required to reunify children under 5 with their parents by July 10 and the remaining children by July 26. According to CNN, attorneys representing numerous migrant families said they have seen no progress on reunification in recent days.

Since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy over two months ago, some 2,500 migrant children have been separated from their parents. According to the Post, only about 500 of those children have since been reunited.

Weekend Editor, Splinter

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