The regulation replaces a long-standing court agreement that restricted how long the government could hold migrant children - a decision that is bound to spark a new court fight about immigrants' rights.
The proposed regulation is scheduled to be published this week in the Federal Register and would take effect 60 days later, though it would likely be delayed because of the expected court challenge.
Immigrant advocates, in contrast, said they believed the change would put many more immigrants into detained court proceedings, slowing the process and keeping children locked up for longer. Border apprehensions have slumped more than 40% since May, a major drop officials have attributed to increased enforcement in Mexico, but officials worry about a resurgence in the fall.
The White House has for some time pressured the DHS to scrap the Flores rule, which the administration says is necessary to curb the flow of immigration across the border with Mexico. Asylum cases involving detained families move much more quickly than cases for families released, taking months instead of years to resolve, in part because there are none of the delays that result when immigrants set free in the USA fail to show up for a hearing. Officials said the families would receive mental health treatment and other services.
"'This rule allows the federal government to enforce immigration laws as passed by Congress, ' Kevin K. McAleenan, the acting secretary of homeland security, said in a statement". "The requirements that help ensure that all alien children (both accompanied minors and unaccompanied alien children) in the Government's custody are treated with dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors". They say it's to keep families together in detention, but now they could be detained indefinitely. "No amount of time in detention is safe for children and prolonged detention is particularly harmful".
The latest measure is the administration's most aggressive and legally questionable effort to curtail legal protections for undocumented children since its much-criticized "zero tolerance" policy resulted in the separation of thousands of migrant families. She would later file a class action lawsuit, claiming that she and other children were strip searched.
The new regulation now requires approval from a federal judge and is expected to be challenged in court.
Castro questioned the safety of family detention in his statement. But family crossings rose again in 2016 and have hit record highs over the past year.
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"This rule allows the federal government to enforce immigration laws as passed by Congress and ensures that all children in USA government custody are treated with dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability". Most have been released in the United States, officials said.
The government operates three family detention centres that can hold a total of about 3,000 people. One facility is limited to adults.
While Trump administration officials say they do not plan to immediately expand family detention, they have explored the possibility.
The administration proposed a similar plan to this one a year ago, but the rules were never enacted as there was an influx of migrants arriving at the border and a shortage of bed space.
"President Trump has made it clear that he's going to secure America's border at all cost and this rule plays a vital role in the strategy to restore the integrity to our immigration system and our national security". Parents went to criminal court and then immigration detention, while their children were sent to federal shelters.
The Flores Settlement "has generally forced the government to release families into the country after just 20 days, incentivizing illegal entry", he said.
Democrats are already reacting to the move, calling it "disgraceful".
"McAleenan said the new rule takes aim at a 2015 "reinterpretation of the Flores Settlement Agreement" in which a California district court ruled accompanied minors are subject to the same detention limits as unaccompanied minors". Children cared for toddlers, the lawyers said, adding that they had inadequate food, water and sanitation.