Trump admin likely to detain migrant families for months during immigration proceedings: report

The Trump administration may detain migrant families together for months at detention facilities as they await prosecution for illegal entry, according to a court filing from the Justice Department.

The Washington Post reported Friday that Trump administration lawyers wrote in a legal notice to a judge in California that the federal government would hold migrant families at detention facilities for "the pendency of immigration proceedings when they are apprehended at or between ports of entry."

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While the filing does not specify the length of expected detention for migrant families — and whether the administration plans to hold them past a 20-day limit — the Post noted that immigration proceedings are known to last for months.

Immigration judges have faced an overwhelming caseload under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy mandating the prosecution of all migrants suspected of illegally crossing the border.

The administration attorneys argued Friday that a previous order from a judge to reunite migrant children with their parents “without unnecessary delay” is invalid after President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE signed an executive order ending family separations. The new policy, “which requires that the minor be kept with the parent, makes delay necessary in these circumstances.”

The court filing comes after Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar told the Senate Finance Committee earlier this week that it was up to Congress or the courts to reunite the 2,047 migrant children still in his agency's custody.

“We are working to get all these kids ready to be placed back with their parents as soon as Congress passes a change, or if those parents complete their immigration proceedings,” Azar said Tuesday. “We do not want any children separated from their parents any longer than necessary under the law.”

The Trump administration's court filing indicates that it is attempting to force a modification of the Flores settlement, a 1997 court ruling that stipulates that minor children who are "accompanied" by their parents crossing the border illegally must be released into HHS care within 20 days.

The Department of Justice asked a federal district court to modify it last week amid the current border crisis, but no ruling has been issued yet.