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The US government said it "will not separate families but detain families together during the pendency of immigration proceedings." PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The US government has said in a court filing that it has the right to detain children and parents caught crossing the US border illegally for the duration of their immigration proceedings.
A 1997 court settlement known as the Flores agreement has generally been interpreted to require the Department of Homeland Security to release illegal immigrant children from custody after 20 days.
But Justice Department lawyers said in the filing in the United States District Court in California on Friday that they now have no choice but to hold children for as long as it takes to resolve their immigration cases, because of a preliminary injunction issued on Tuesday in a separate immigration case.


That case, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, challenged the recent government policy of separating families in order to detain parents for as long as necessary under President Donald Trump's policy.
Since it was implemented in May, some 2,000 children have been taken from their parents.
An executive order issued by Mr Trump last month reversed the policy, and the subsequent injunction in San Diego ordered the government to immediately stop separating families.
To comply with the injunction, the government said on Friday it "will not separate families but detain families together during the pendency of immigration proceedings." Cases can sometimes take months or years to resolve.

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