Lawyers for the federal government told a federal judge in 2015 that failing to allow U.S. immigration officials some leeway in how they implement the infamous Flores settlement would prompt an explosion of immigrant families – real and otherwise – trying to enter the country.
The judge refused, Obama did nothing to prepare for the onslaught and here we are today having to dispatch 5,200 U.S. troops to back up the 2,000 National Guardsmen and thousands of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers already at the border preparing for the next caravan. LifeZette’s Brendan Kirby has the story.
Lawyers went to court to warn that judge-imposed detention rules could lead to an explosion of immigrant families streaming across the southwest border illegally — and, perhaps, lead to the separation of parents and children.
But those were not attorneys from President Donald Trump’s administration or an anti-immigration organization, and the hearing did not take place within the past few months. It was the Department of Justice (DOJ) under President Barack Obama in 2015.
At issue was a 1997 agreement signed during Bill Clinton’s presidency, settling a 1985 lawsuit that changed the rules for detention of foreign children who come without adults across the border. The settlement of the suit filed by an illegal immigrant named Jenny Lisette Flores placed a 20-day limit on the detention of unaccompanied minors.
A federal judge later ruled that the 20-day limit applies to a situation that was almost unheard of until about decade ago — children traveling with their parents or other adults. A surge in that type of illegal immigration in 2014 prompted Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to hold illegal immigrant mothers and children in unlicensed facilities pending the outcome of their immigration court cases.
A civil rights group challenged the policy, alleging that it violated the Flores settlement. U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee, an Obama appointee, agreed.
In August 2015, in an effort to persuade Gee to stop her order from taking effect, DOJ lawyers warned in written arguments that her position would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to release all families who enter the United States illegally — even if they have no legitimate claim for asylum.
“Even the Obama administration could see the terrible consequences of it. And one of them is this caravan.”
“Defendants submit that eliminating DHS’ ability to use the authorities Congress has provided in the INA [Immigration and Nationality Act] to respond to illegal entries could undo the progress that has been achieved in reducing the number of families illegally crossing the southwest border since the summer of 2014,” the government’s brief stated.
“Specifically, the proposed remedies could heighten the risk of another surge in illegal migration across our southwest border by Central American families, including by incentivizing adults to bring children with them on their dangerous journey as a means to avoid detention and gain access to the interior of the United States.”
As Predicted, Family Migration Surged
The Justice Department further argued that the judge’s order would leave the “separation of mothers and children as DHS’ only option” for dealing with any future surge of illegal border crossings by families.
Gee declined to modify her order. The Obama administration avoided the specter of family separation — which came to haunt the Trump administration during its ill-fated zero-tolerance policy — by releasing most families to the interior of the country.
But the Obama DOJ warnings proved prescient. The predicted surge did, in fact, occur. Illegal border crossings from children and adults traveling together — deemed “family units” by the government — had dropped from 68,556 in fiscal year 2014 to 39,838 in fiscal year 2015, following implementation of the new detention policies.
“We’re seeing the consequences of the Flores settlement. The U.S. government is completing the smuggling process … Flores means catch and release for everyone — children and adults.”