A US federal judge has turned down the Trump administration’s request to allow long-term detention of illegal immigrant children, a move seen as a significant legal setback to the president’s immigration agenda.
Judge Dolly Gee issued a ruling in a federal court in California on Monday, rejecting a US Justice Department motion to modify a 1997 settlement to permit the government to keep underage migrants in detention alongside their parents.
Gee described the administration’s request as “a cynical attempt” to shift immigration policymaking to the courts.
The Trump administration had asked Gee to suspend the Flores settlement’s requirement that immigrant children be kept only in facilities that comply with state child welfare licensing regulations, so as to allow whole families to be in detention centers together.
Gee said there was “no state licensing readily available for facilities that house both adults and children.”
The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy towards illegal immigration has led to family separations at the US border with Mexico.
Broadcast pictures of young children held in enclosures behind chain-link fences have triggered angry protests across the US and elsewhere so far.
More than 2,000 separated children are currently in the US government’s custody, according to the Department of Homeland Security, which claims that it is aware of their locations and is making an effort to reunite them with their families.
More than half of American voters say they disapprove of the way President Donald Trump has handled immigration, according to a recent survey by Quinnipiac University.
Just 39 percent of those polled said they approve of the president’s policy, while 58 percent said they disapprove.