- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Democratic presidential hopeful Julián Castro on Wednesday slammed the Trump administration’s planned workaround to a court agreement that has allowed illegal immigrant children and parents to pour into the U.S., creating a de facto “catch and release” policy for the families.

“This is another example of this administration’s cruelty,” Mr. Castro, a former housing secretary under President Obama, said on CNN’s “New Day.” “Your viewers will notice that they go to so many lengths to be so much more cruel than anything that has come before us.”

“I hope that whatever steps they take are challenged immediately in court and actually not put into effect,” he said.

The Trump administration on Wednesday is announcing that migrant families can be held together while their cases are being heard by immigration judges, superseding a 20-day limit imposed by the 2015 Flores settlement.

Reached in 1997, the Flores Settlement created standards for how the government would handle juvenile illegal immigrants who showed up at the border without a parent, and called for the children to be moved out of immigration detention as quickly as possible.

In 2015 Judge Dolly M. Gee, an Obama appointee to the bench, updated the agreement by ruling that it also applied to children who came with parents, saying they, too, should be moved out of detention as quickly as possible, with a 20-day target for release.

Since children are supposed to be kept with parents if possible, that meant the entire family needed to be released within 20 days — less than half the time it takes to complete the average immigration court case.

The Obama administration appealed Judge Gee’s ruling but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld most of her ruling.

“I think the answer is to keep families together,” Mr. Castro said.

Overturning or superseding Flores would allow for families to be kept together, though in detention while their cases are being heard.

Mr. Castro suggested there should be more of an effort to find family members or sponsors already in the U.S. the children could stay with.

But Homeland Security has also reported a spike in fake families showing up at the border, including cases where children were rented out to one adult to be brought to the U.S. then “recycled” back to Central America to be rented to another adult later.

The Trump administration has said many illegal immigrants end up skipping out on their hearings, though Mr. Castro pointed to an effort toward the tail end of the Obama administration to more closely manage cases to try to make sure individuals do show up to court.

“There are ways that we can do this that don’t involve detaining people,” he said. “It’s a fantasy to think that the only way that we can accomplish people showing up to their court date is by detaining them. We can keep families together. There’s a common-sense, more effective, smarter and more humane way to do this. It’s just that the Trump administration is not the least bit interested in doing that.”

Dave Boyer and Stephen Dinan contributed to this story.

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