Six Honduran migrants are suing President Donald Trump and parts of his administration over policies the president has enacted and said he is going to enact on the U.S. border with Mexico.
The class action lawsuit was filed in federal court Thursday on behalf of the migrants and their children, who are en route to the U.S. on foot as part of a larger caravan Trump has vowed to stop or detain at the border. The suit asks the court to declare Trump’s policies unconstitutional.
Trump says he plans to send up to 15,000 troops to the border, in addition to border patrol and ICE agents. About 100 active-duty soldiers arrived at the border in Texas on Thursday.
Also Thursday, Trump said in a White House speech that undocumented immigrants would be held in detention — many in "massive tent cities" — until they could be deported, and asylum seekers would be blocked from claiming asylum if they are caught crossing the border outside of legal ports of entry.
Under current law, people are allowed to make a claim for asylum anywhere in the United States, no matter how they entered.
“We're going to catch, we're not going to release," Trump said Thursday. Later, he doubled down on his promises during a campaign rally later that night. "We’re going to keep these people out of our country," Trump said. "Vote Republican."
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“The President is violating federal law, trampling the rights of Americans and legal immigrants to be free from use of the military for law enforcement, and has set up a potential catastrophe at the US/Mexico border all in the name of white nationalism and with the objective of scoring political points,” Mike Donovan, president of Nexus Services, the immigration services company funding the suit, said in a statement.
“Sending soldiers to border, Trump continues his campaign to militarize the border and brutalize immigrant families to score political points and enflame racist tendencies among his supporters,” the statement said.
The suit says that Trump’s plan to detain migrants until they are removed from the U.S. “violates due process rights.”
“The legal problem with Trump’s plan to stop caravan persons from entering this country is that Plaintiffs are seeking asylum, and Trump simply cannot stop them from legally doing so by using military, or anyone,” the suit says.
The suit also says that Trump’s stated plan to hold migrants in tents violates the Flores Agreement, a legally binding lawsuit agreement from 1997 that has since had some court adjustments. It dictates how long and in what conditions the federal government can detain children. At the border, Customs and Border Protection is required to release children within 72 hours.
The facilities must “provide access to toilets and sinks, drinking water … adequate temperature control and ventilation, adequate supervision to protect minors from others, and contact with family,” the agreement states.
“Clearly President Trump cannot believe that his tents are facilities run by licensed programs as required by the Flores Agreements,” the lawsuit says.
The suit also asks the court to “note that President Trump has begun hysterically asserting without any evidence that ‘many criminals’ and ‘many gang members’ are in this ‘onslaught’ of migration.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
If the Trump administration does detain and deport or block asylum seekers, it would also be in violation of international asylum law as well, said Scott Anderson, a David M. Rubenstein fellow in governance studies at The Brookings Institution.
Trump also said this week that he plans to sign an executive order that would end birthright citizenship for the children of many immigrants to the U.S. That executive order, if and when it’s signed, is also almost sure to face legal challenges.