Legal battle looms over Trump’s new plan to detain immigrant families

President Donald Trump’s move to quell the firestorm over his administration’s separation of migrant families at the border seems certain to draw legal challenges concerning the federal government’s obligations when holding children in long-term detention.

Even as Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order calling for families to be detained together, he predicted a legal battle.

“There may be some litigation,” the president said. “Ultimately, we want to see it done right, and it will be done right.”

At the core of the coming legal showdown is a two-decade-old legal settlement known as the Flores agreement that sharply limits the federal government’s ability to keep minors in immigration custody and sets standards for their treatment while there.

In most cases, immigrants under 18 are required to be released within 20 days, preferably to a family member already in the U.S.

Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have repeatedly called for legislation to limit or roll back aspects of the Flores deal—a settlement struck in 1997 to resolve a lawsuit claiming that children were often being denied proper food and medical care and subjected to both unsanitary conditions and danger in centers where they were housed with adults.

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