With all the talk about how the Trump administration is planning to end the Flores Agreement, one thing we would like to remind you all. During a Wednesday morning press conference, acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin K. McAleenan made sure to include the Obama administration for cranking up the family detention policy in 2014 and 2015, the very same policy that the Trump administration wants to purse now. In other words, the family that stays together will be detained together—for an undefined time too. Thanks, Obama?
Anyway, here is what McAleenan said in his remarks:
Second, the new rule closes the legal loophole that arose from the reinterpretation of Flores–which Congress has refused to do—allowing the federal government to house alien families together in appropriate facilities during fair and expeditious proceedings, as was done by the previous Administration in 2014 and 2015.
Prior to the 2015 court ruling that restricted our use of the FRCs [Family Residential Centers], immigration proceedings averaged less than 50 days, granting those with meritorious claims prompt relief and permission to stay in the U.S., while swiftly repatriating those meritless claims—who have comprised a substantial majority of the families being processed.
Our goal remains, as in the previous Administration, to provide an expeditious result while holding families together—which particularly benefits legitimate asylum seekers with meritorious claims. The current system, however, serves those with meritless claims, and leaves all migrants in a state of limbo for years. In recent months, the majority of final orders of removal for families who recently arrived at our border have been issued in absentia—over 85%. This rule changes that dynamic.
The result of holding families together under the previous Administration was a dramatic reduction in the flow of unlawful crossings by families. The 2015 court ruling upended that process, and the direct and predictable result has been two family surge crises at the border, first in 2016 and now, with unprecedented levels this year.
When fully implemented, the new rule will restore the humane and effective procedures employed in 2014-2015.
He also said this during the the questions segment of the press conference, when asked about how long families would be detained as they wait for immigration court hearings:
“We’ve done this before as Department of Homeland Security,” McAleenan said. “In 2014 and 2015, under then-Secretary Jeh Johnson, family residential centers were established and these proceedings were implemented. During that time period, the average stay was under 50 days for completion of immigration proceedings.”
Can we make this point any clearer?