Morning Brief

States Sue Trump Administration Over Indefinite Detention for Immigrant Children

Plus: Indonesia wants to move its capital, Kenya’s first crude export, and other stories we’re following today.

A mother and child from Guatemala at Annunciation House shelter for migrants in El Paso, Texas, on Oct. 12, 2018.
A mother and child from Guatemala at Annunciation House shelter for migrants in El Paso, Texas, on Oct. 12, 2018. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: U.S. states fight to keep the Trump administration from detaining migrant children for longer than 20 days, the G-7 leaders commit funds to fight Amazon fires, and Indonesia looks to a new capital.

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California Leads Fight Against Plan to Hold Migrant Families Indefinitely

Nineteen U.S. states and the District of Columbia, led by California, filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to stop a new policy the Trump administration announced last week, under which migrant families that crossed the U.S. border illegally would face indefinite detention. This approach—the latest step in the White House’s ongoing efforts to curb undocumented migration to the United States—is intended to replace a longstanding 20-day limit on keeping families in immigration jails.

The Trump administration has come under criticism for conditions in overcrowded detention facilities near the southern border and for separating thousands of children from their families.

Last year, Kirstjen Nielsen, who was then U.S. President Donald Trump’s secretary of homeland security, called the 20-day parameter a “legal loophole” that has allowed undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States illegally.

“Efforts to weaken or eliminate basic child protection standards by calling them a burden or loopholes, and eliminating their obligations for the basic care of children, is just another example of the administration’s abdication of human rights,” Michelle Brané, the director of the migrant rights and justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, told the New York Times.

Why 20 days? In 1997, the U.S. federal government reached a settlement with Jenny Lisette Flores, a 15-year-old girl from El Salvador who was mistreated at the U.S. border. The agreement put in place a 20-day limit on the detention of children and set basic standards under which they can be held. But Trump’s Department of Homeland Security and Department of Health and Human Services have moved to terminate the settlement.

What can states do to overrule Trump? A multistate lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California asserts that the new policy violates the court-granted basic standards of protection for detained immigrant children. “Children have been forced to go without basic hygiene products that we all take for granted like soap and toothbrushes and they are being held in these conditions for much longer than is ever necessary,” said Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general. “Children don’t become subhuman simply because they are migrants.”

What We’re Following Today

Trump sends mixed messages. As the G-7 summit in France wound down, dignitaries, journalists, and investors struggled to keep up with Trump as he zigzagged between seemingly contradictory positions on a raft of global issues. After doubling down on the escalating trade war between the United States and China, he opened the door to talks, referencing phone calls from Chinese officials that neither Beijing nor U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would confirm. And after at first refusing to comment on the surprise presence of Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the meeting, Trump later seemed to welcome the visit, saying that he would be willing to meet soon with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani—under the right circumstances.

Rainforest relief. The G-7 leaders agreed to commit a relatively modest $22 million to help put out severe fires in the Amazon. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, whose custodianship of the Amazon has met with criticism around the world, accused French President Emmanuel Macron of harboring a colonial perspective on Brazilian sovereignty. Meanwhile, hundreds of fires also spread across Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Another reported Israeli strike in Lebanon. A day after Hezbollah said its media office had been targeted by Israeli drones, Lebanese state media reported that Israeli planes carried out strikes against a Syrian-backed Palestinian group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The apparent increase in Israeli military activity has sparked fears of escalation.

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Keep an Eye On

Will Indonesia actually move its capital? Indonesian President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, on Monday said officials had chosen a new site for the country’s capital: a forested tract in East Kalimantan, a province on the island of Borneo. The current capital, Jakarta, is beset by pollution and congestion, with a metropolitan area home to some 30 million people, and it is also slowly but surely sinking. In order for the move to proceed, the legislature would have to approve it. While the idea has come up before and failed, this time the relocation seems likelier than in the past.

“Big projects in Indonesia generally develop in one of two ways: as a boondoggle that attracts corruption but eventually gets done or as a ‘clean’ project that never gets done,” Aaron Connelly, a research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told Foreign Policy contributor Stanley Widianto in May, the last time the move came up. “The challenge for Jokowi is to ensure it doesn’t turn into a boondoggle, but … he’ll have trouble attracting support if patronage networks don’t see themselves benefiting from the project.”

Kenyan crude. Kenya on Monday became first country in East Africa to export petroleum when a tanker left the port of Mombasa carrying more than 200,000 barrels worth of crude. Political fights have already broken out over how oil profits should be distributed.

Odds and Ends

Doctors in Zimbabwe’s state medical system are threatening to go on strike if they are not paid in U.S. dollars. They rejected the offer of a 60 percent raise. The country is facing an economic crisis and high inflation.

Members of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species voted to add the smooth-coated otter and the Asian small-clawed otter to the most endangered species list. Wild populations of these species have rapidly declined amid a social media-propelled fad of keeping them as pets, especially in Japan, the Guardian reports.

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Benjamin Soloway is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @bsoloway

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