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Tuesday December 18th, 2018 8:07AM

The Latest: US lawyers say families can be detained

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on immigrant parents and children separated at the U.S. border (all times local):

9:25 p.m.

The Trump administration says a ruling this week by a federal judge in San Diego requiring the government to reunify families separated at the border means authorities can legally keep families detained, even those seeking asylum.

The Department of Justice said in a court filing Friday that the government is allowed to detain families now that the California judge has barred their separation.

The filing cites exemptions in a settlement known as the Flores agreement that allow authorities to keep families in custody.

The Flores agreement requires the government to release children "without unnecessary delay," which the government has generally interpreted to mean about 20 days.

The government is still pushing to amend the agreement, despite its new interpretation.

The judge in San Diego on Tuesday set a 30-day deadline for reuniting parents and children, and quicker for very young kids.

___

6:45 p.m.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is reviewing its entire caseload of about 12,000 migrant children in federal care to determine who might be covered by a judge's ruling requiring that kids separated from their parents be reunited.

As a result. the number of children separated from their parents could be larger than the roughly 2,000 that Health and Human Services was reporting earlier this week.

The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss an evolving situation that has created frustration among advocates for the migrant families.

The judge on Tuesday set a 30-day deadline for reuniting parents and children, and quicker for very young kids. Health and Human Services says it is moving expeditiously to meet that goal, while ensuring that the children in its care will be safe once they are released.

The official said the audit will not slow down the work of reuniting families. "Nothing is being stopped in the process," the official said.

The official said Health and Human Services determined the audit was needed because the judge's order covers all separated families, not just children and parents who were split apart from May 5 to June 20, when the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy led to family separations.

That's why the number of children separated from their parents could ultimately turn out to be larger than previously reported.

The official said the process for reuniting families basically follows the same steps that Health and Human Services has used for years to place children who arrive at the US borders by themselves, with no adult. The two main steps involve a background check of the adult who will be caring for the child and verifying the family relationship of the adult and the child.

--Ricardo Alonzo-Zaldivar, Associated Press

--

This item has been corrected to say the judge made the ruling on Tuesday, not June 22.

___

6:15 p.m.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says he agrees with protesters and fellow Democratic politicians who are calling for the abolition of the federal government's chief immigration enforcement agency.

De Blasio said on WNYC radio Friday that Immigration and Customs Enforcement "has become a punitive, negative tool for division" and should be replaced with something else.

Democratic politicians including New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have said that ICE should be abolished.

About 100 protesters chanted "Abolish ICE!" as they marched through lower Manhattan on Friday.

Protester Suzanne Rust said she was shocked that migrant families have been separated trying to cross the border from Mexico.

Rust said she was "just fed up" and wanted to protest "what's happening in this country."

___

4:20 p.m.

Democrats considering a presidential run in 2020 are joining the calls to overhaul U.S. immigration enforcement — and some of them are even echoing activists' calls to "abolish ICE."

That's the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency that was created after the 9/11 attacks.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says it should be scrapped. California Sen. Kamala Harris says "maybe" the government should look at a new model.

Other leading Democrats say the focus should be on President Donald Trump's policies and not the government's organizational chart.

The issue could be complicated for Democrats. The party must deal with its liberal and ethnically diverse base, which will shape the presidential nominating fight.

___

4:05 p.m.

Tina Fey is joining some of Broadway's biggest stars for a concert being livestreamed Saturday to benefit migrants on the Mexican border.

The lineup also will feature Audra McDonald, Idina Menzel, Chita Rivera, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Norm Lewis, Matt Bomer, Andrew Rannells and Keala Settle.

The concert is set for 5 p.m. Eastern at The Cooper Union in downtown New York City. It will be broadcast via Facebook Live and at ConcertsforAmerica.com .

Highlights will include Rivera singing "America" from "West Side Story" and the reuniting of McDonald and Mitchell for "Wheels of a Dream" from the musical "Ragtime." Settle is flying into New York specifically to perform "This Is Me" from the film "The Greatest Showman."

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3:45 p.m.

The Organization of American States is urging the United States to follow through on President Donald Trump's decision to stop the separation of migrant families at the southern border.

The 34-nation regional bloc is also calling for the U.S. to reunite migrant children with their parents as soon as possible.

The OAS adopted that resolution without debate or vote — or objection from the U.S delegation.

It is much less critical toward the Trump administration than the original draft resolution proposed by Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

The resolution was watered down after the leaders of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras met Vice President Mike Pence in Guatemala on Thursday.

It still urges Washington not to prosecute asylum seekers and calls for human rights investigators to visit the border.

___

3:15 p.m.

Homeland Security's watchdog group has found that some inspections for immigration detention facilities are inadequate.

The report Friday by the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security found inspections that were contracted out by other agencies were overly broad and not consistently thorough.

The report says the inspections do not fully examine the actual conditions at the 211 facilities. Some are operated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, some are contracted out, and some are local jails. The average total daily population was 35,435.

The report comes as some lawmakers and activists are calling for an end to ICE.

ICE said it will re-evaluate the inspection scope and methodology and has already taken steps to bolster the oversight of contracted inspections.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the report shows the inspections are a charade.

___

2 p.m.

Immigrant advocates have filed a lawsuit alleging that federal officials are unfairly refusing to release unaccompanied immigrant children to relatives who are offering to care for them.

The suit filed Friday on behalf of five children also alleges that the Department of Health and Human Services places immigrant children in secure facilities without a say and administers psychotropic drugs to children without parental authorization.

The suit seeks class-action status and was filed in federal court in Los Angeles by groups including the National Center for Youth Law.

Some of the allegations are also being reviewed in another longstanding case that relates to immigrant children's detention conditions.

The Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately respond to email messages seeking comment.

___

12:50 p.m.

The Trump administration's request for the Pentagon to house migrants detained at the U.S. southern border and even help prosecute them is prompting concern about strains to the military.

In Congress, some lawmakers are criticizing the move.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis argues that the Defense Department is obliged to provide help.

But several senators are objecting to Mattis lending 21 military lawyers to the Justice Department.

The Pentagon has received a Department of Homeland Security request to house up to 12,000 detained migrant family members, starting with shelters for 2,000 people to be available within 45 days.

___

1 a.m.

Immigrants who have spent years fighting to change the country's immigration system are getting newfound support from liberal activists, moms and first-time protesters who are against the separation children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Groups that pulled off massive women's marches the past two years and other left-leaning rallies are throwing their weight behind migrant families Saturday.

More than 600 marches could draw hundreds of thousands of people nationwide, from immigrant-friendly cities like Los Angeles and New York City to conservative Appalachia and Wyoming.

Though many are seasoned anti-Trump demonstrators, others are new to immigration activism, including parents who say they feel compelled to show up after heart-wrenching accounts of children forcibly taken from their families as they crossed the border illegally.

___

See AP's complete coverage of the debate over the Trump administration's policy of family separation at the border: https://apnews.com/tag/Immigration

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