Donald Trump announces push to detain migrant families indefinitely

Donald Trump wants to remove the so-called Flores Settlement, which is widely interpreted as limiting detention to 20 days
Donald Trump wants to remove the so-called Flores Settlement, which is widely interpreted as limiting detention to 20 days Credit: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Donald Trump has announced scrapping a rule which limits the detention of migrant families to 20 days while they await a decision on asylum applications to America. 

A White House statement said the current agreement, known as the Flores Settlement, is fuelling the surge in families crossing the US border and being used by smugglers. 

Mr Trump said: “To protect these children from abuse, and stop this illegal flow, we must close these loopholes. This is an urgent humanitarian necessity.”

The move is meant to come into effect in 60 days but is sure to be challenged in the courts, meaning a delay is expected. 

Immigrant rights' campaigners and political opponents of Mr Trump said the change would keep migrant families detained in unsuitable facilities for longer than is acceptable. 

The announcement is the latest attempt by the Trump administration to stop a surge in border crossings and matches the US president’s hardline position on immigration. 

The Flores Settlement emerged from a landmark court agreement in 1997 which dictates how child migrants can be detained. It is widely interpreted as setting a 20-day limit on detention. 

Under Mr Trump’s proposal, that limit would be removed, meaning that migrant families would be detained indefinitely until a decision on their asylum case was made, which could be months. 

The White House announcement called the Flores Settlement a “loophole” which was being exploited by human smugglers to get young children across the border. 

It noted that fewer than 15,000 migrant families crossed into America in the 2013 fiscal year, but that the figure for this fiscal year is already more than 430,000. 

Separately, Mr Trump told reporters that he was once again looking at whether to revoke birthrights citizenship, which gives anyone born in America automatic US citizenship.