The Trump administration is expected to announce, as early as Wednesday, that it’s moving ahead with new rules that would allow for the longer term detention of families traveling with children across the U.S.-Mexico border, according to two government officials familiar with the plan.
The government’s detention of children has been limited to less than 20 days under a court settlement known as the Flores Settlement Agreement. President Donald Trump and Republicans have repeatedly blamed the 20-day limit for encouraging undocumented migrants from arriving at the border with children, expecting to be released.
The administration proposed a similar rule in September 2018, arguing that the Flores agreement is no longer valid once the administration publishes its own regulations. But that rule was never enacted, as the government faced a massive influx of undocumented migrants at the border and lacked appropriate bed space.
The officials spoke to ABC News on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details publicly. Department of Homeland Security officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump has struggled to respond to an unprecedented influx of undocumented migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, mostly people from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. U.S. law allows people to approach the border to claim asylum, but the courts have since the 1990s restricted how children should be cared for and limited how long they could be held.
The president saw a major dip in border crossings his first year in office before the numbers began to soar in late 2018 and early 2019, with as many as 144,000 people stopped at the border in the month of May alone.
Border officials say they weren’t prepared for the influx, and inspectors documented facilities with massive overcrowding and unsanitary conditions. Several children have died of complications from the flu after being held in overcrowded facilities.
In recent weeks, the numbers began to drop slightly following an agreement by the Mexican government with Trump to deploy its own security forces to crack down on asylum seekers. The administration also moved ahead with its plan to force many migrants to wait in Mexico while their cases wind thru immigration courts.
The latest proposal suggests the government has decided to move ahead with its earlier plan now that its border facilities are less overwhelmed. Still unclear, however, is where the administration plans to put the families, which continue to cross the border in the tens of thousands each month.
*see full story by ABC News