Frontera Fund News Trump Watch

Trump Determined to Incarcerate Immigrant Children

Written by Carmen Cornejo

The Trump administration keeps on with its relentless attack on immigrant, asylum-seeking children and families pretty steadily, not turning down the hate in spite of national and global outrage.

First, he ordered the family separation and incarceration of children as small as infants as a cruel remedy for a wave of asylum seekers fleeing gang violence in Central America.

Later, in spite of a decisive court order and clear dateline to reunite families  including those migrants already deported – his Department of Homeland Security (DHS) dragged its feet. DHS continues to do so, with still more than 400 families yet to be reunited.

Now, villainously, he is trying to weaken a court settlement that orders the release of detained immigrant children in order to incarcerate them indefinitely.


Last week, the White House proposed new rules that seek to hold migrant parents and children together in detention until their case is brought to a judge in immigration court, according to attorney Efren Olivares with Texas Civil Rights Project.

At this point, the U.S. and Australia may be the only western democracies that have a policy to incarcerate immigrant children.

The implications are enormous. Besides the clear outright inhumanity of imprisoning minors, the federal government assumes great liability when it houses young immigrants.

We have already written about the consequences: Media outlets reported sexual abuse on detained minors, forced medication, housing minors in inadequate facilities and the death of a minor just days after her release from a family detention center, for an infection contracted inside Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s facilities.

Since the courts had intervened and mandated the Trump administration reunite and release children, now the Trump team is trying to challenge a 1997 court settlement known as Flores v. Reno. This court settlement, which is legally binding, limits how long migrant children can be kept in custody.

Flores v. Reno states that children shouldn’t be detained more than 20 days when possible and establishes that children should be kept in the “least restrictive conditions.”

Attorney Olivares, in an interview with NPR, said the Trump administration is trying to circumvent that settlement agreement that has been practiced for more than 20 years.

Trump’s DHS “has proposed regulations that would terminate the agreement and allow them to imprison children and adults, many of whom not only have never committed a crime but are actually asylum seekers, for as long as many months and, in some cases, even years,” said Olivares.

As a result, the number of families and children incarcerated is growing.

Although family separation was supposedly stopped by the courts, Olivares said minors are being separated when the adult accompanying the child is not a mother or a father but sibling, uncle, niece, nephew or grandparents.

This mass incarceration continues to be a big problem, especially in South Texas, where asylum seekers from Central America are arriving.

To be fair, the Obama administration also sought to weaken Flores v. Reno and expanded family detention, but Trump is really ramping up the efforts on immigrant family incarceration.

“The problem is that now things are getting much worse. And trying to detain children indefinitely – it’s a very, very problematic policy proposal that runs in the face of international human rights standards when it comes to children,” said Olivares.