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This Week: A Trump Administration Plan Would Put Asylum-Seeking Kids In Jail Longer

September 6, 2018 7:03 p.m.

The Trump administration has introduced another attempt to detain immigrant and asylum-seeking children and families indefinitely in the United States. The effort to codify changes to the Flores Settlement Agreement, which strictly limits the time children can stay in detention facilities, also includes language changing who can “sponsor” unaccompanied minors out of the Department of Homeland Security’s custody.

Currently, the list includes siblings, aunts, uncles and grandparents. The proposed regulation narrows that down to “parent or legal guardian,” which will inevitably leave more children in government detention for longer. The 200-page proposal contains lots of changes to achieve that end: Longer government detention of kids.

An unnamed “senior” Trump administration official published an op-ed in the New York Times claiming to be part of the administration’s “steady state,” without naming any specific policies of the President’s they objected to.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues to shed staffers with connections to the white nationalist movement, like the DHS analyst who engaged in high-level immigration policy meetings just years after being invited to a “Judenfrei” dinner party. “They don’t call it Freitag for nothing,” he responded at the time.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke hired an outspoken critic of the Endangered Species Act as the department’s deputy assistant secretary for policy, management and budget.

“Whatever the ESA’s cost is, it is much larger than generally acknowledged, and likely measured in the hundreds of billions of dollars,” Robert Gordon wrote in a recent report for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which among other things touts its climate change denialism.

The EPA’s inspector general reported this week that the EPA was unjustified in spending more than a million taxpayer dollars extra on 24/7 security for former administrator Scott Pruitt, and that the agency continually refused to provide a justification for the increased security at the time. The IG’s office simply wasn’t buying the EPA’s post-facto excuses, either.

The EPA’s proposal to replace the capstone Obama administration climate achievement, the Clean Power Plan, now omits references to the impacts of climate change. E&E News reported: “An earlier draft of the plan’s regulatory impact analysis devoted more than 500 words to the consequences of a warming planet,” but, after an interagency review led by the White House, that language disappeared.

The likely Supreme Court Justice-to-be Brett Kavanaugh is a proponent of limiting agencies’ abilities to regulate; he opposes a legal principal called the Chevron doctrine, and argued in 2017 that it encourages agency aggressiveness on a large scale,” thus allowing them to “stretch the meaning of statutes enacted by Congress to accommodate their preferred policy outcomes.”

So if you want a vision of the future, to paraphrase Orwell, imagine a boot stamping on the Clean Power Plan.

One bipartisan bright spot in administrative law this week came from Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME), who introduced a bill to restore administrative judgeships to the competitive service, per the Federal Times, beating back a Trump administration power grab in July that would allow individual agencies to pick judges.

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