The Trump administration announced on Wednesday that it was preparing for a rule change that would allow immigration authorities to detain illegal immigrant families indefinitely.
Under the current Flores Settlement Agreement, children can not be held for more than 20 days. In cases where these children came into the U.S. with families, the families would also be released after that time period expired.
In a news release, the administration argued that some immigrants had purposely brought children with them in order to take advantage of this rule. It claimed that this “essentially gives a free pass into the interior of the United States to many aliens who arrive at the border with a minor.”
It also said that smugglers had “even fraudulently presented aliens arriving at the border as fake families to take advantage of the Flores loophole.”
The Flores Agreement was first put into place after a 15-year-old Salvadoran immigrant named Jenny Lisette Flores was held in custody in 1985 along with adults. She would later file a class action lawsuit, claiming that she and other children were strip searched.
The suit spent 12 years in the court system before the two sides came to a settlement agreement in 1997. The agreement states that the federal government should be held to certain standards when holding migrant children in its custody.
In a news release, the White House called this 20-day limit a “loophole,” and criticized Congress for failing to close it “and help fix the crisis at the border.”
This announcement does not come as a surprise. In September, the Department of Homeland Security indicated that it planned to get rid of the Flores restrictions.
The new rule would take effect 60 days from this Friday.