A coalition of state attorneys general on Monday filed suit against the Trump administration over a new rule that would allow the federal government to detain migrant families indefinitely.
"This new Trump rule callously puts at risk the safety and well-being of children. It undermines a decades-old agreement reached in court by the federal government to prevent the unlawful detention of immigrant children," said California AG Xavier Becerra, referring to the 1997 Flores settlement, which the White House is attempting to scrap.
"We're taking the Trump administration to court to protect children from the irreparable harm caused by unlawful and unnecessary detention," Becerra said. "With our partners across the country, we will fight for the most vulnerable among us."
#BREAKING: We’re taking the Trump Administration to court to defend children from the irreparable harm caused by unlawful detention.
— Xavier Becerra (@AGBecerra) August 26, 2019
The lawsuit (pdf) comes days after the Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan unveiled the new regulation, which would terminate the current 20-day limit on detention of immigrant children.
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As Common Dreams reported last week, the rule was met with horror by rights groups, which described it as a "cruel attack on children."
Massachusetts AG Maura Healey, who led the lawsuit alongside Becerra, echoed immigrant rights advocates' alarm at the new rule, which must be approved by a federal court before it can take effect.
"With this rule, the Trump administration is paving the way for ICE to imprison innocent children for indefinite periods of time and is attempting to take away the ability of states to stop them," Healey said in a statement. "This most recent attack on immigrant children is cruel, immoral, and illegal and we’re suing to stop it."
Joining California and Massachusetts in the lawsuit are Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
The coalition of states warned the Trump administration's rule would "result in the vast expansion of family detention centers and lead to children being held in prolonged detention with significant long-term consequences to their health and well-being."
"Detention causes major trauma to children," said the states, "and can lead to long-term psychological harm."