A federal judge refused the Trump administration’s request to change a longstanding settlement so that officials could detain asylum-seeking families together during lengthy immigration proceedings, the Wall Street Journal reports. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles complicates the administration’s efforts to reunite more than 2,000 children separated from their parents while illegally crossing the border. Amending the “Flores settlement” was a key part of President Trump’s executive order ending the practice of family separations. Justice Department officials said the separations were unavoidable because the 1997 settlement bars authorities from detaining children when their parents are arrested for trying to enter the U.S. illegally.
Judge Gee called the Trump administration’s effort “a cynical attempt…to shift responsibility to the Judiciary for over 20 years of Congressional inaction and ill considered Executive action that have led to the current stalemate.” She added, “What is certain is that the children who are the beneficiaries of the Flores agreement and who are now in [government] custody are blameless. Their best interests should be paramount.” Dozens of immigrant children under the age of 5 will be released from government custody and reunited with their parents Tuesday after being separated at the border under President Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy, the Associated Press reports. A federal government lawyer said that at least 54 children under the age of 5 would join their parents by a court-ordered deadline, only about half the 100 or so children covered by the order. The Trump administration was working on final background checks for another five children ahead of Tuesday’s deadline.