The Consequence of Trump’s New Family Detention Rules

August 21, 2019
The Texas Observer

On Wednesday morning, Trump administration officials announced a final rule that will allow the government to detain migrant children indefinitely in family detention centers while they and their parents await resolution of their asylum cases. Currently, kids may generally be held in such facilities for no longer than 20 days. The final rule will not be published in the Federal Register until Friday, and it won’t take effect for two months. A legal challenge is likely. 

OK—so let’s take about five steps back. 

In the summer of 2014, a wave of Central American minors and families was arriving at our Southern border—a trend that continues through the present. At the time, the Obama administration had virtually no capacity to hold these families. The notorious Hutto family detention facility near Austin had been converted into an all-women lockup five years prior, leaving the feds with nothing but a tiny 96-bed center in Pennsylvania. So, to the dismay of his liberal base, Obama resurrected family detention, launching a short-lived center in New Mexico and two South Texas lockups that remain today: the 830-bed Karnes County Residential Center and the 2,400-bed South Texas Family Residential Center, in Dilley. 

Quickly, stories of abuse and psychological trauma began emanating from the facilities, as some families were held for months on end. Until, in the summer of 2015, a federal judge intervened.