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Trump Administration Releases Final Text For New Migrant Detainment Regulations


Today the Trump administration released the final text of new rules for how migrant children are treated in detention. Right now the government has to release migrant kids from detention centers as quickly as possible, generally within 20 days. The new regulations would abolish the time limit and make other big changes as well. NPR's Joel Rose has been reading in. He joins us now. And Joel, let's just start with what stands out to you.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Right. These rules would allow the government to detain migrant children and families indefinitely, and regulations spell out how they would do it. DHS would get rid of the current requirement that children be detained in facilities that are licensed by a state, and instead, under the new rules, DHS would be able to license these facilities itself and then hold families in these detention centers for as long as they want.

And at the same time, DHS would no longer have to allow immigration attorneys in to monitor conditions inside the facilities, which is especially troubling to migrant advocates.

CORNISH: Because the government would be minding its own shop, so to speak.

ROSE: Exactly.

CORNISH: DHS has come under fire for its treatment of immigrants in its custody, but these regulations would, I guess, take away that layer of oversight.

ROSE: That's right. DHS says they'll hire outside inspectors to make sure that facilities provide a high standard of care. DHS acknowledges that detention could have a negative impact on migrant children. But it says these new rules will ensure that kids are treated with, quote, "dignity and respect." And the regulations note that these facilities have medical professionals on hand, who are trained to recognize and to treat trauma.

CORNISH: What does the Trump administration say this is - why does the Trump administration say this is necessary?

ROSE: Well, the number of migrant families crossing the southern border has skyrocketed, particularly in the last year or so - more than 400,000 family members since October of last year. And the Trump administration says migrant families with kids from Central America know that if they ask for asylum, the entire family is likely to be released, and they can live in the U.S. while they wait for their day in immigration court.

Now the administration wants to detain them to discourage more from coming, and the only way to do that is to - they say, is to replace the so-called Flores settlement with these new regulations. The Flores settlement sets the standards for the care of migrant children in detention. It's been in place for years, and immigrant advocates say it should remain in effect. In fact, they plan to challenge these new regulations in court.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Joel Rose.

Joel, thanks for walking us through it.

ROSE: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.
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