AUSTIN (KXAN) — The acting Director of the Citizen and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, spoke in Austin the day after the Trump Administration published new rules stating they will terminate the decades-old policy under the Flores agreement.
In effect, this will allow the administration to keep migrant families in detention facilities until their court date, longer than the Flores agreed-upon 20 days. The rule is expected to be published in the federal registry on Friday, to take effect in 60 days.
Currently, a recently detained immigrant’s case will be resolved in around two months but there is technically no limit to how long someone can be held in U.S. detention.
Cuccinelli spoke with Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, during a discussion moderated by Kevin Roberts with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank in Austin.
Cuccinelli told KXAN he did not know how many more people this would keep in detention.
“That’s going to unfold over time going forward. But like I said there is space immediately now to use,” said Cuccinelli.
After a summer’s worth of headlines describing cramped conditions and dangerous health hazards, he told KXAN if Congress continues to fund the program — that won’t happen.
“There are almost no children held past the 72-hour target any longer in these facilities ,” said Cuccinelli, “If they take our advice on just the basics needed to handle the flow we’re facing. I promise the same thing will happen at the adult level.”
But some like Austin immigration attorney Griselda Ponce are skeptical. The new rule will allow a child to be held until their immigration case is finished.
“Asylum cases usually go about six months to nine months. If there’s an appeal they could go for an entire year to two years,” said Ponce.
She’s simply worried for the longterm health and wellbeing of her child clients.
“They can call it a residential facility but when you go into these facilities they’re actually jail-like,” said Ponce.
Ponce expects the California judge over the Flores agreement to place an injunction over this latest change.
Part of the Flores Agreement required states to license immigration detention facilities. However, Director Cucinelli told KXAN because of how broad the agreement was the state of Texas never reached a conclusion over how to license the facilities.
According to reporting from NBC News, because of limited space at ICE detention facilities, DHS officials expect the new rule to apply to 5 to 10 percent of families crossing the border.