The White House intends to detain migrant families together but might therefore hold children longer than previously allowed, according to new court documents filed by the U.S. Justice Department.

“The government will not separate families but detain families together during the pendency of immigration proceedings when they are apprehended at or between ports of entry,” the Justice Department said in documents filed on Friday.

Flores Agreement

In Los Angeles, a decades-old federal court settlement known as the Flores Agreement mandates that immigration officials release detained minors if they are held for more than 20 days. In a separate case, a U.S. district judge in San Diego on Tuesday ordered that divided families be reunited within 30 days — and two weeks in cases involving children under five.

The Justice Department’s submission to the U.S. judge in charge of the Flores Agreement calls attention to what it sees as a conflict between the two cases, saying the long-standing agreement “put the government in the difficult position of having to separate families if it decides it should detain parents for immigration purposes”.

“The rulings work together to permit detention of parents with their minor children with whom they are apprehended,” the government said, adding that an “amendment of the Flores Agreement is appropriate to address this issue”. The filing does not say outright that the White House will detain families for longer than 20 days but rather for the “pendency” of immigration proceedings — which could last months.

Some 2,000 children remain split from their parents, according to official figures.

Many trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border are destitute people fleeing gang violence and other turmoil in Central America.

Also, liberal activists and parents rallied in hundreds of cities nationwide on Saturday to press Mr. Trump’s administration to reunite the families quickly.

More than 600 marches were expected across the country, from immigrant-friendly cities like Los Angeles and New York City to conservative Appalachia and Wyoming under the banner ‘Families Belong Together’.

Nationwide rallies

Saturday’s rallies got funding and support from the American Civil Liberties Union, MoveOn.org, the National Domestic Workers Alliance and The Leadership Conference.

Mr. Trump took to Twitter on Saturday morning to show his support for Immigration and Customs Enforcement amid calls from some Democrats for major changes to immigration enforcement. T

weeting from New Jersey, Mr. Trump said that Democrats “are making a strong push to abolish ICE, one of the smartest, toughest and most spirited law enforcement groups of men and women that I have ever seen.” He urged ICE agents to “not worry or lose your spirit”.

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