The US government has moved to lift limits on how long it can detain illegal immigrant children, a move that could see hundreds of children kept separated from their parents or relatives for months.

The Department of Homeland Security filed a proposal in the Federal Register yesterday indicating that it would end its adherence to the Flores Settlement, a 1997 agreement with a federal court to not detain children separated from their parents for more than 20 days.

According to AFP News Agency, that could give the government the ability to continue holding indefinitely more than 400 children who were separated from their parents after crossing the Mexican border illegally.

Additionally, it could continue in the future to indefinitely separate families taken into custody after crossing into the US without legal immigration papers.

The Trump administration, which has been stepping up the fight against illegal immigration, says it has to separate the children while their parents face criminal charges of illegally entering the country.

Rights groups decried the proposed change.

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