The Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services announced a new rule Wednesday pertaining to how the government handles immigration cases involving minors.
The new rule effectively ends the Flores Settlement Agreement (FSA), which set the policy for detaining immigrant minors. Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan argued that recent interpretations of the FSA increased illegal border crossings with minors because immigrants knew that those arriving with children would be released pending court hearings.
This key gap in our immigration framework comes from a 2015 reinterpretation of the Flores Settlement Agreement—an agreement that is now more than two decades old—by a Federal district court judge. The reinterpretation, which applied, for the first time, the requirements of the Flores Settlement to accompanied minors has generally forced the Government to release alien families into the country after just 20 days, incentivizing illegal entry, adding to the growing backlog in immigration courts, and often delaying immigration proceedings by many years.
This single ruling has substantially caused, and continued to fuel, the current family unit crisis, and the unprecedented flow of Central American families and minors illegally crossing the border – until today.
McAleenan highlighted four key facets of the new rule: (1) the rule permanently establishes high standards of care for children and families in custody; (2) under the new rule the federal government can detain alien families together during proceedings; (3) by closing the FSA loophole, the rule disincentivizes family units from traveling to the US; and (4) the new rule will keep smugglers from using minors as a tool to get adults released in the event the group was captured.
The new rule will be implemented in 60 days.