The Trump administration on Wednesday unveiled a rule that allows officials to detain migrant families indefinitely while judges consider whether to grant them asylum in the United States, abolishing a previous 20-day limit.
The rule, which is certain to draw a legal challenge, would replace a 1997 court settlement that limits the amount of time U.S. immigration authorities can detain migrant children. That agreement is generally interpreted as meaning families must be released within 20 days.
It was the Republican administration’s third major regulation restricting immigration in little more than a month, all during an unsettled period when senior immigration officials hold “acting” titles lacking U.S. Senate confirmation.
Trump has made cracking down on legal and illegal immigration a hallmark of his presidency after campaigning in 2016 on a promise, so far unfulfilled, that Mexico would pay for a border wall to keep migrants from entering the United States.
In what would be another attempt to dismantle established immigration law, Trump told reporters on Wednesday his administration was seriously looking at ending the right of citizenship for children born to non-citizens within the United States.
Immigration officials are looking for any kind of deterrent to reverse a record surge in families fleeing violence and poverty in Central America. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials say they have caught or rejected 475,000 family members in the past 10 months, more than three times any previous full year.
On July 15 the administration unveiled a rule to bar almost all immigrants from applying for asylum at the southern border, and on Aug 12 it announced regulation denying visas and permanent residency for those who fail to make enough money.