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Trump to detain migrants for long, mulls ending birthright citizenship

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The Trump administration is refusing to show a human, softer face on immigration to the United States as it unveiled new tough rules.

The new rule unveiled Wednesday will allow officials to detain migrant families indefinitely while judges consider whether to grant them asylum in the United States, eliminating a previous 20-day limit.

The rule, which is certain to draw a legal challenge, would replace a 1997 court settlement that limits the amount of time U.S. immigration authorities can detain migrant children. That agreement is generally interpreted as meaning families must be released within 20 days.

It was the administration’s third major regulation restricting immigration in little more than a month, all during an unsettled period when senior immigration officials hold “acting” titles lacking U.S. Senate confirmation.

Trump has made cracking down on legal and illegal immigration a hallmark of his presidency after campaigning in 2016 on a promise, so far unfulfilled, that Mexico would pay for a border wall to keep migrants from entering the United States.

On Wednesday, Trump told reporters his administration is also seriously looking at ending the right of citizenship for children born to noncitizens within the United States.

Immigration officials have struggled to handle a surge of families fleeing violence and poverty in Central America. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials say they have caught 390,000 family units since last October.

On July 15 the administration unveiled a rule to bar almost all immigrants from applying for asylum at the southern border, and on Aug. 12 it announced regulation allowing visas and permanent residency only for those who make enough money.

Legal challenges have held up many of Trump’s initiatives, but immigration advocates say he has managed to build an “invisible wall” through executive actions bypassing Congress.

The administration framed the policy as a humane approach to a crisis in which a record number of mostly Central Americans have sought asylum in the United States.

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“To protect these children from abuse, and stop this illegal flow, we must close these loopholes. This is an urgent humanitarian necessity,” Trump said in a statement.

Critics counter that Trump and Stephen Miller, his aide on immigration, are using a series of heartless policies to animate hardcore political supporters and discourage migrants from fleeing their impoverished and violence-ridden homelands.

“The cruelty of the Trump administration knows no bounds. Make no mistake: this new rule is about letting President Trump and Stephen Miller keep children in awful conditions for longer periods of time and continue the administration’s horrid treatment of innocent migrant families fleeing unthinkable hardship,” U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has repeatedly said detention is not suitable for children, who may suffer numerous negative physical and emotional symptoms. Officials said the families would receive mental health treatment and other services.

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