WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The Department of Homeland Security announced it will now hold migrant children for indefinite periods of time to keep families together.
Democratic lawmakers say the rule change announced Wednesday is un-American and illegal.
Court records show the Trump administration separated thousands of migrant children from their parents and lost track of them in some cases.
“But I’m the one that kept the families together,” said President Donald Trump. “With what we’re doing now, we’ll do even more of that.”
This latest change attempts to erase a previous court settlement that said kids can only be held in custody up to 20 days.
Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan said the change will make it easier to deport families who don’t qualify for asylum but also improves their conditions while they’re in custody.
“A campus-like setting with appropriate medical, educational, recreations, dining and private housing facilities,” McAleenan said.
McAleenan said the goal will be to process immigration cases as quickly as possible so that families aren’t in custody for extended periods.
However, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) doesn’t think that will be possible.
“There is about a six-year backlog and so children and parents could be locked up for years,” Merkley said.
Legal challenges are expected and Sen. Merkley believes the courts will stop the new rule.
“This is completely unacceptable, this is un-American,” he said. “We are not going to allow the establishment of internment camps.”
The change is scheduled to go into effect in about 60 days — unless the courts put it on hold.