Vermont AG joins lawsuit over rollback of child immigrant protections

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Nineteen states including Vermont and New York filed a lawsuit over the Trump administration’s effort to alter a federal agreement that limits how long immigrant children can be kept in detention.

“We will stand up for the welfare of immigrant children,” Attorney General TJ Donovan said, in a news release out Tuesday. “We will continue to fight for the dignity and fundamental rights of families, regardless of immigration status.”

A 1997 agreement known as the Flores settlement says immigrant children must be kept in the least restrictive setting and generally shouldn’t spend more than 20 days in detention.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said last week it would create new regulations on how migrant children are treated. The administration wants to remove court oversight and allow families in detention longer than 20 days. About 475,000 families have crossed the border so far this budget year, nearly three times the previous full-year record for families.

A judge must OK the Trump administration’s proposed changes in order to end the agreement, and a legal battle is expected from the case’s original lawyers.

It’s not likely that U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee would approve the changes; it was her ruling in 2015 that extended the application of the Flores agreement to include children who came with families. She ordered the Obama administration to release children as quickly as possible.

Other states joining the lawsuit are Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington, and the District of Columbia.

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