Two federal judges—each on a different coast—put the brakes on two of Donald Trump’s cruel attempts to punish immigrants at the southern border on Friday.
First, in Los Angeles, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee halted the administration’s latest attempt to dismantle what’s known as the Flores agreement, which the Los Angeles Times describes as “the seminal 1997 court settlement that said the government must provide a minimum standard of care for migrant children in U.S. custody.” The Flores agreement, which also faced challenges from the Obama administration, covers all children, whether they arrive in the U.S. with their parents or are unaccompanied, and requires minors to be released within 20 days. Trump officials, in new regulations that were filed Aug. 21, sought to hold families with children indefinitely. Additionally, the administration challenged the definition of “minimum” when it came to standards of care for the children it’s so determined to keep in cages.
The regulations escalate a heated fight over not only the Trump administration’s ability to hold migrant families, but also its willingness to do so humanely. As Trump has largely failed to deter near-record migration to the southern border, made up of mostly Central American families seeking asylum, a spate of immigrant children and adults have died in U.S. custody, and immigration authorities have repeatedly been found to be providing sub-standard care for detained migrants.
A federal appeals panel found last week that detained children should get edible food, clean water, soap and toothpaste under the agreement, after a bid by the Trump administration to limit what must be provided.
You read that last bit correctly. A judge had to overrule this administration’s resistance to providing children clean water and edible food—which brings us to Judge Gee’s decision on Friday morning.
It was clear in the hearing that she wasn’t falling for administration’s attempt to trample on Flores in the name of “humanitarian” ideals. “Just because you tell me it is night outside does not mean it is not day,” Gee chided an attorney from the Justice Department; in her written decision, Gee noted that policy disagreement is not a valid reason to overturn the two-decades-old consent decree.
An appeal by the Trump administration is expected, and the Supreme Court could end up taking up the case.
Across the nation and hours later, the bad guys saw another attempt to legalize cruelty get squashed, when, in Washington, D.C., U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson slapped down a 126-page injunction on the administration’s attempt to broaden the scope of who is eligible for “fast-track” deportation. The so-called “fast track” bypasses immigration court entirely, placing the fate of undocumented immigrants in the hands of fairly low-level immigration officials. Before the July 23 edict, the “fast-track” only applied to people who had entered the country very recently—within two weeks or less—and who were apprehended close to the border—namely, within 100 miles. In other words, people who hadn’t been here long enough, in theory, to put down roots.
The failed attempt would have allowed the government to deport undocumented immigrants who were apprehended ANYWHERE in the country, up to TWO YEARS after they entered the country … i.e., people who have had been here long enough to put down roots. Outrage and resistance to the move was swift.
“Under this unlawful plan, immigrants who have lived here for years would be deported with less due process than people get in traffic court,” Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement.
On Friday, Judge Jackson pulled no punches in her decision, which, like Judge Gee, noted that the Trump seems to be trying to change laws not because there’s legal ground, but simply because they want to.
“Government actors who make policy decisions in their official capacities cannot succumb to whims or passions while rulemaking,” she wrote. “If a policy decision that an agency makes is of sufficient consequence that it qualifies as an agency rule, then arbitrariness in deciding the contours of that rule—e.g., decision making by Ouija board or dart board, rock/paper/scissors, or even the Magic 8 Ball—simply will not do.”
Once again, with a maniac in the White House and a Senate Majority Leader determined to stop all legislature in its tracks, the judiciary steps up with checks and balances that protect not just our undocumented neighbors, but the nation’s humanity.