On June 22, pursuant to Trump’s Executive Order, the Department of Justice asked a federal court to let the government out of some of the Flores settlement requirements. This binding settlement is the only law preventing the horrific caging of children apprehended by ICE.
Why? So that our government can efficiently detain families together in preparation for deportation.
The Justice Department’s “motion,” asks for two “narrow” exceptions to the Flores settlement. First, to be able to detain families together. Second, to make family jails exempt from licensing requirements, which govern the minimum standards of care in these jails.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. It is based on the false narrative that American immigration policies incentivize Central Americans to flee to the United States and “game” the system by filing weak or fraudulent asylum claims. Who says so? Thomas Homan, soon-to-be-ex director of ICE. Homan is a virulent anti-immigration figure with cozy ties to the white nationalist sympathizing groups FAIR and CIS.
2. Wholly missing is any discussion of the convoluted and inconsistent asylum process, the difficulty in proving these claims, the fact that the current DOJ is actively gutting the asylum law to make the claims nearly impossible, evidence that asylum seekers are denied the chance to make their claims, and sloppy procedures that fail to properly notify released people of their court dates.
3. The Justice Department is complaining that the only way to enforce the law is to detain families indefinitely. (Memo at 1) It freely conflates the word “crisis” with both the crisis *created* by Trump separating families, and the larger humanitarian one which the DOJ misleadingly calls a “destabilizing migratory crisis” – removing any reference to asylum seeking. (The word “asylum” appears only twice, and “refugee” 0 times in the entire 23-page memorandum).
4. The change is necessary, according to the DOJ, because of changed circumstances of a surge in border crossings. Missing is argument as to why that now makes lengthy incarceration of children a good idea. It also conflates enforcement of immigration law with deportation – there is no mention of “enforcing” INA 208 (governing asylum). This is because the Government fails to recognize the real change in circumstance: the collapse of the Northern Triangle into a terrible cauldron of violence.
5. The government asks to detain families together so that removal proceedings can be expedited. That is code for rob them of due process and deport them, together, more efficiently.
6. As a result of the false narrative, the Government argues it is stuck between two alternatives: separate families, or tolerate gaming of the asylum system. This is an absurd conclusion.
There is a clear option: Give people a meaningful chance to tell their story. Let’s not be afraid to listen.