On Monday evening, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles denied the Trump administration's request to modify a 1997 consent decree to allow migrant families to be detained together for long periods and in unlicensed facilities. The Justice Department's request for changes in the Flores agreement, she wrote, was "a cynical attempt" to shift immigration policymaking to the courts after "over 20 years of congressional inaction and ill-considered executive action that have led to the current stalemate." Gee had rejected a similar request to modify the Flores agreement by former President Barack Obama's administration in 2015, and she said Monday that President Trump's Justice Department had failed to offer new evidence that a revision was necessary.
The Justice Department said it is reviewing Gee's ruling. Another federal judge has ordered Trump to stop separating families at the border and reunite separated migrant families starting Tuesday, giving Trump few options. Under Trump's "zero tolerance" policy, most people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border without permission were jailed, with children sent to separate facilities than their parents, often hundreds or thousands of miles away. When Obama faced a similar influx of migrants from Central America in 2014, he eventually settled on releasing most families together, often on bond or with ankle monitors to assure they returned to court. "Sifting through the government's false narrative, the court clearly found that the Flores settlement has never resulted in the separation of families," said Peter Schey, a lead counsel on the original Flores lawsuit. "President Trump needs to take responsibility for his own misguided policies."