The Trump administration says it can detain migrant families as long as prosecution requires

Dozens of women, men and their children, many fleeing poverty and violence in Honduras, Guatamala and El Salvador, arrive at a bus station following release from Customs and Border Protection
(Image credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The Justice Department said in a district court filing Friday that the Trump administration can detain migrant families intact at the border for as long as it takes to prosecute them.

The claim came in response to a Tuesday court ruling prohibiting family separations and requiring immigrant children currently separated from their parents to be reunited with them within 30 days. Because of the ban, the DOJ argued, the administration can now disregard the 1997 Flores agreement that prohibited the federal detention of children for longer than 20 days.

"To comply with the [Tuesday] injunction," the filing said, "the government will not separate families but detain families together during the pendency of immigration proceedings when they are apprehended at or between ports of entry."

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The Obama administration complied with the Flores limitation by releasing families into the United States to await their immigration hearings but also requested permission to detain families for longer than 20 days. That request was denied in court in 2015.

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