ICE head insists children won't be held indefinitely under new rule

ICE head insists children won't be held indefinitely under new rule
© Aaron Schwartz

Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Matthew Albence insisted that a new administration rule ending a procedure that caps the detention of migrant children at 20 days is not meant to allow the agency to hold them indefinitely.

“The Supreme Court has already ruled in the immigration context that people cannot be held indefinitely. So, there is no such thing as indefinite detention,” Albence told CNN on Wednesday after the policy was unveiled.

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“There is no maximum. The maximum amount of time is that as what's required to complete the case,” he added, referencing statistics from 2015 saying families were detained for as many as 50 days.

The new rule, which scraps the so-called Flores Agreement that first implemented the 20-day cap, says immigrant families could be held for the duration of their court proceedings. 

The administration has long said that the Flores Agreement incentivized illegal border crossings with a promise of eventual release. 

Albence said Wednesday that the rule change helps disincentivize migrant families from illegally crossing the border, arguing that the government’s previous inability to detain them together for longer periods of time was a “large pull factor.” 

“Well, we know that the fact that we haven’t been able to detain these families is a large pull factor. And what this does is help reduce that pull factor so that individuals that do come have the ability to be — have their day in court, make their asylum claim, stay in a secure, safe, humane environment while they do so,” he said.

Besides removing the 20-day maximum detention limit, the policy also establishes new standards for conditions in detention centers. 

Advocacy groups have hammered the new rule, with the American Civil Liberties Union bashing it as a “cruel attack on children.”