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US moves to remove limits on detaining immigrant children

Thursday, September 06, 2018

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WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — The US government has moved to lift limits on how long it can detain illegal immigrant children, a move that could see hundreds of children kept separated from their parents or relatives for months.

The Department of Homeland Security filed a proposal in the Federal Register Thursday indicating that it would end its adherence to the Flores Settlement, a 1997 agreement with a federal court to not detain children separated from their parents for more than 20 days.

That could give the government the ability to continue holding indefinitely more than 400 children who were separated from their parents after crossing the Mexican border illegally.

Additionally, it could continue in the future to indefinitely separate families taken into custody after crossing into the United States without legal immigration papers.

The Flores Settlement was agreed to prevent the mistreatment of minors held by the government in detention facilities.

The Trump administration, which has been stepping up the fight against illegal immigration, says it has to separate them while their parents face criminal charges of illegally entering the country. Some in the government say the separation policy aims to deter the thousands of people who seek to cross the border illegally each month.

But for many of those children currently in detention, their parents have already been deported back to their home countries.

Rights groups decried the proposed change.

"These proposed regulations would only inflict further harm on children who have likely already endured significant persecution, trauma, and extreme distress. The Flores Agreement must be allowed to stand to protect vulnerable families," said Ashley Houghton of Amnesty International USA.

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