NBC reported Thursday that the Department of Homeland Security has proposed a new regulation that will allow U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain immigrant minors and their parents indefinitely, flouting 20 years of precedent that mandates a limit of 20 days.

The rule goes into effect in 60 days, NBC explains, and allows ICE to keep migrant parents with their children as their asylum cases wind through the court system. An unnamed official who spoke to NBC explained that “the purpose of the rulemaking is to terminate the 1997 Flores settlement agreement that said children could not be held in detention longer than 20 days.”

As The Washington Post reports, Homeland Security officials believe that the current “limits on detaining families have effectively sent a message to would-be migrants that any parent who brings a child can expect to be quickly released from custody after entering the country illegally.”

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended the decision, saying in a statement, “Today, legal loopholes significantly hinder the Department’s ability to appropriately detain and promptly remove family units that have no legal basis to remain in the country.”

In order to detain migrant minors and their families indefinitely, ICE needs to expand its facilities to provide more room. The three current “family residential centers” have just 3,500 beds combined and “those facilities are almost always full,” the Post explains, adding that “limitations on child detention under the Flores settlement have been a disincentive to build more. The settlement also mandates that children can only be held in licensed facilities, and the government has struggled to find states willing to do so.”

The Trump administration told NBC that the new rule is legal because the facilities are being evaluated by third parties. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar claims the rule will “satisfy the basic purpose” of the Flores agreement because the children will be kept safe. “Under this proposed rule, HHS would implement the Flores Settlement Agreement and our duties under the law to protect the safety and dignity of unaccompanied alien children in our custody,” he said.

NBC News did not name the third-party evaluators or explain how authorities plan to keep children safe.

The Post observes, “While the new rule does not require congressional approval, it’s likely to trigger new legal challenges and could revive still-simmering anger over the Trump administration’s separation of 2,600 migrant children from their parents under a border crackdown this spring.” NBC says that the case could go to an appellate court, or possibly to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, 500 migrant children remain in federal custody without their parents.

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