LOS ANGELES — A California federal judge on Monday rejected the Trump administration’s efforts to detain immigrant families in long-term facilities, calling it a “cynical attempt” to undo a longstanding court settlement.
U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee said the federal government had failed to present new evidence to support revising a court order that limits the detention of children who crossed the border illegally.
The Department of Justice asked Gee to alter a 1997 settlement after the president reversed a policy of separating migrant children from their parents that caused an international uproar when the emotional scenes of families being split up were caught on camera. The government wanted to alter the settlement so it could detain families together long-term.
Gee called the government’s request “a cynical attempt” to shift responsibility to the court “for over 20 years of Congressional inaction and ill-considered executive action that have led to the current stalemate.”
Gee said the government’s had sought to “replow the same familiar territory” it had three years ago when she rejected a similar effort by the Obama administration. She said the application to change the agreement in the case named for lead plaintiff Jenny Flores was “procedurally improper and wholly without merit.”
The Department of Justice was reviewing the ruling and did not say if it would appeal.
“We disagree with the court’s ruling declining to amend the Flores Agreement to recognize the current crisis of families making the dangerous and unlawful journey across our southern border,” spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a statement.
Children can be detained together if their parents waive their right to release them to the custody of a family member.
Attorney Peter Schey, who represents detained children in the settlement, said President Donald Trump had falsely claimed the settlement required the separation of families.
“Sifting through the government’s false narrative, the court clearly found that the Flores settlement has never resulted in the separation of families,” Schey said. “President Trump needs to take responsibility for his own misguided policies.”