The US government has maintained that it will continue to detain children and parents found entering the country illegally.
In a court filing on Friday, the Trump administration said it has the right to incarcerate children and parents for the period of their immigration proceedings.
A 1997 court settlement referred to as Flores agreement is interpreted to require the US immigration authorities to free illegal immigrant children from custody after 20 days.
In a filing at the US District Court in California on Friday, Justice Department lawyers said they are left with no choice but to hold immigrant children for the period it takes to resolve their immigration cases, citing a preliminary injunction issued on Tuesday in a another immigration case.
The case, lodged by the American Civil Liberties Union in San Diego, sought to challenge the recent government policy of separating children in order to detain their parents under President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy.
Since the Trump policy took effect in May, about 2,000 children separated from their parents are currently in custody.
The injunction in San Diego ordered the government to stop separating parents and children, adding that families must be reunited in 30 days or less.
To comply with the injunction, the Trump administration on Friday said it “will not separate families but detain families together during the pendency of immigration proceedings.” Such cases take months to resolve or in some instances years.