Pa.’s Shapiro one of 20 attorneys general suing Trump administration over proposed family detention policy

    200 hundred people gathered in Berks County Friday, July 12, 2019 to protest a immigration detention center outside Reading. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

    Twenty attorneys general including Pennsylvania’s Josh Shapiro announced Monday that they are suing the Trump administration over a proposed policy that would allow for the indefinite detention of migrant families.

    At question is the 1997 Flores settlement, which established certain standards for facilities that hold migrant families and a 20-day limit for detaining children. Berks County in Pennsylvania is home to one of just three of these facilities.

    New Trump administration rule would OK indefinite detention of migrant families in Berks facility

    Kevin McAleenan, acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, announced Aug. 21 that the administration is moving forward with a new rule that would essentially end the agreement.

    “The Flores settlement is the law of the land, and it was established to protect children from the emotional and physical trauma caused by prolonged detention and separation,” Shapiro said in a statement. “This is yet another brazen attempt by the Trump Administration to strip states of their power and loosen regulations and oversight on facilities detaining families and children.”

    Bridget Cambria, an attorney who has represented people held at the Berks County Residential Center, previously told the Capital-Star families are routinely detained longer than 20 days, but are eventually released to a community sponsor while their cases are adjudicated.

    Under the new Trump rule, families would continue to be detained while their asylum claims or removal orders are investigated, a process that can take years.

    The federal government would also take control of licensing and inspecting these facilities.

    “They’re trying to minimize responsibilities in order to deter future migration,” Cambria said. “Deterrence is not a reason to treat children poorly.”

    The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Shapiro is joined by other attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia. Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

    Associate Editor Sarah Anne Hughes covers the governor and Pennsylvania's agencies. Before joining the Capital-Star, she was the state capitol reporter for Billy Penn and The Incline, and a 2018 corps member for Report for America. She was previously managing editor of Washington City Paper, editor-in-chief of DCist, and a national blogger for The Washington Post.

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