Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has criticized 19 states and Washington for suing the Trump administration after it ended the Flores agreement, which sets standards and guidelines regarding the detention and treatment of children who have crossed into the United States illegally.
“These states are supporting the magnets of illegal immigration,” Graham told Fox & Friends during an appearance on Aug. 27. “The reason we’re being overrun is two reasons. If you come here and claim asylum and your hearing is three years away and you never show up, we don’t hold people for three years so all they’ve got to do is ask for asylum.”
He added, “If you’re bringing a minor child, we can only hold the child for 20 days. … Since you don’t want to separate families, we’ll let the entire family go. So they’re continuing a bad practice. Shame on these states. Shame on the District of Columbia. Congress should change our laws to allow you to hold minor children and their families long enough to process their claims.”
The 1997 Clinton-era Flores agreement is a court ruling that says minors who cross the border illegally must be detained for no longer than 20 days. This means the children and their families then have to be released into the interior of the United States with a court date set for possibly years down the road.
“This creates a ‘get out of jail free’ card for illegal alien families and encourages groups of illegal aliens to pose as families hoping to take advantage of that loophole,” according to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) factsheet on June 18.
On Aug. 21, the DHS and Department of Health and Human Services announced a new rule that would terminate the Flores Agreement, effectively allowing for DHS to keep families together in detention “during fair and expeditious immigration proceedings.”
“[This] eliminates a key incentive that encourages traffickers to exploit children,” said Kevin McAleenan, acting secretary of the department, in a statement on Twitter.
“Today’s action addresses a court-imposed weakness in immigration law that prevented DHS from detaining a family together for more than 20 days and codifies critical commitments on the conditions for children in Federal care.”
(1/5) Today, @DHSgov & @HHSgov have issued the “Flores Final Rule”, which allows DHS to keep families together during fair and expeditious immigration proceedings, and eliminates a key incentive that encourages traffickers to exploit children.
— Acting Sec. Kevin McAleenan (@DHSMcAleenan) August 21, 2019
He added that the new rule will help reduce the number of family units being apprehended at the border—which has caused a humanitarian crisis due to the influx of illegal immigrants in recent months.
Federal immigration officials have reported record highs in the apprehension of illegal aliens at the border to Congress in the past months, saying that the numbers have overwhelmed border patrol facilities and resources. In May, border patrol agents apprehended or deemed inadmissible over 144,000 people crossing from Mexico, but in June the number fell to around 104,000 people after Trump took action against Mexico leading to a deal between the two countries. This number fell to just over 82,000 in July.
According to a DHS statement, the new rule will continue to “ensure that all alien children (both accompanied minors and unaccompanied alien children) in the Government’s custody are treated with dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors.”
Following the new rule’s announcement, many of Trump’s opponents and Democrats expressed outrage. The multistate lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles seeks to block the new rule.
“This new Trump rule callously puts at risk the safety and well-being of children. It undermines a decades-old agreement reached in court by the federal government to prevent the unlawful detention of immigrant children,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.
The states that are participating in the lawsuit are California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
During the Fox & Friends interview, Graham was asked why such an important issue had become so political.
“They hate Trump,” Graham said. He then suggested that in order to come up with viable solutions to the immigration issues across the nation, the American people need to “send people to Washington that don’t hate Trump.”
“I have been working on immigration for 10 years,” Graham said. “I’m willing to deal with a DACA population [and] give them a place to stay in our country [and] pathway to citizenship. I’m willing to spend money in Central America to make life better. I’ve done everything I know to do. I’ve turned blue in the face. I can’t get one Democrat to agree with me that you should apply for asylum in Central America, or Mexico, not the United States because we don’t have the capability to deal with asylum claims and most of them are fraudulent.”
“I can’t get one Democrat to agree to allow children to be held with their families humanely for, 40, 50, or 100 days so we can process their claims.
“They will not work with me. They will not work with President Trump. I am dumbfounded as to why we can’t find [a] compromise,” he added.
Epoch Times reporter Charlotte Cuthbertson contributed to this report.