In the US it is currently against the law to imprison children who enter the US illegally. The 1997 law known as the the Flores Settlement Agreement (Flores) set national standards regarding the detention, release, and treatment of all children in immigration detention and underscores the principle of family unity.
It requires that:
- Juveniles be released from custody without unnecessary delay, and in order of preference to the following: a parent, legal guardian, adult relative, individual specifically designated by the parent, a child welfare licensed program, or, alternatively when family reunification is not possible, an adult seeking custody deemed appropriate by the responsible government agency.
- Where they cannot be released because of significant public safety or flight risk concerns, juveniles must be held in the least restrictive setting appropriate to age and special needs, generally, in a nonsecure facility licensed by a child welfare entity and separated from unrelated adults and delinquent offenders.
Under previous administrations, illegal immigrants with children, seeking asylum were detained together. If they had relatives living in the US, individuals or groups in the US that would sponsor them, they were released and then instructed to appear for a future hearing about their claims. This is the “Catch and Release” phrase, that the administration, Republican politicians and the majority of Trump supporters have been objecting to.
The Republicans are now working on a law to repatriate the children that have been separated from their parent(s) and then imprison them together in military bases along the southern border until their refugee cases are processed, ignoring of course the stipulations stated above.