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EDITORIAL: Caging kids indefinitely is indefensible plan to stop border crossings

The Trump administration’s plan would upend a carefully crafted consent decree that has forced the government to adhere to minimum standards of care for migrant children for the last 22 years.

President Donald Trump in 2018.
President Donald Trump.
AP file photo

President Donald Trump wants to cage migrant children indefinitely.

That would be the effect of a new rule announced Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security.

It would upend a carefully crafted consent decree that has forced the government to adhere to minimum standards of care for migrant children for the last 22 years.

Under the decree, the government can keep children in detention for no more than 20 days. The new policy would terminate the 20-day rule and the entire decree, known as the Flores Settlement Agreement.

We can only hope that the courts block the rule, scheduled to take effect in two months. A federal judge must approve it, and lawsuits are expected.

Conditions in some of the detention facilities are abominable. Children go without hot meals for days, and without clean clothes or showers for a month or more. This was widely reported earlier this summer.

The Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog issued a report in early July that said DHS needs to address dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention of children and adults in the Rio Grande Valley.

The president wants to keep kids in custody until their immigration cases are resolved. With immigration courts backlogged, detention would drag on for months or years in most cases.

White House officials believe this new tactic will discourage other migrants from coming to the United States. Former President Barack Obama tried long-term detention of kids with their mothers in 2014, and a federal judge eventually said no way.

Trump wants us to believe his administration can be trusted with children; this is the man responsible for separating children, including babies, from their parents at the border last year.

He puts his contempt for refugees and undocumented immigrants in plain view. He allows his administration to operate overcrowded, grimy, deplorable jails for migrants. But, hey, he can be trusted.

“Promulgating this rule and seeking termination of the FSA are important steps towards an immigration system that is humane and operates consistently with the intent of Congress,” DHS said in its statement.

It would be laughable if it weren’t so reprehensible.

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