Trump immigration official says new rule detaining families indefinitely is a ‘deterrent’

(CNN) — Trump immigration official Ken Cuccinelli is defending the Trump administration’s proposed changes to the Flores settlement agreement that would allow undocumented families to be detained together indefinitely, saying the new proposal is meant to deter migrants from wanting to cross the US-Mexico border.

“This is a deterrent, because they know that instead of rushing the border, which is what’s been going on for a number of years now, by using the massive numbers coming to the border and overwhelming our facilities and our capacity to hold folks and our court rulings, which is what the Flores rule was, that now they can and will to the extent we’re able to do so, hold them until those hearings happen,” Cuccinelli, the acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, said in an interview Friday with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on “New Day.”

Under what is known as the Flores settlement agreement, the government is required to release a minor from a non-licensed facility as expeditiously as possible, which has been set at 20 days. The Trump administration’s new proposal announced Wednesday would give the government new licensing authority, allowing the use of either a state license or Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention standards, according to a DHS official, meaning families can be held longer than 20 days.

It’s the latest effort by the administration to revamp immigration laws as the number of families and unaccompanied minors crossing the US-Mexico border has increased. Cuccinelli on Thursday touted President Donald Trump’s “aggressive” tactics on immigration.

Cuccinelli told CNN on Friday that targeting the Flores agreement, which he called “one of the main motivators for the crisis at the southern border,” is a “critical part of the solution.”

“This solves the problem by demonstrating to families that are considering coming to the southern border illegally, that they will be detained for the duration until their hearings can be held,” Cuccinelli said.

Cuccinelli said that migrants will no longer be simply be released into the country “for us to never see them again.”

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan acknowledged this week that the administration will likely face litigation before adding that they hope to implement the new regulation as soon as possible.

The rule must also be examined by the federal judge who oversees the Flores settlement. The regulation goes into effect 60 days after it is formally published, barring other legal delays.

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