In a new ruling, Judge Dana Sabraw has given the federal government six months to locate children separated from their families at the border under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy. Though many of the more than 2000 children the government took from their families have since been reunited pursuant to a June 2018 court order, reports indicate that there may be thousands more children that are currently unaccounted for.
Court papers filed late last week show that according to the government's most recent estimates, close to 500 children, including 22 under the age of 5, remain in US custody after being separated from their parents at the border earlier this year pursuant to the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" policy. The greatest logistical challenge that government officials and immigrants' rights advocates have faced in reuniting many of these children with their families is that their parents were deported without them, and are now proving difficult if not impossible to locate.
In a joint status report filed last week, the Department of Justice provided its most detailed figures to date regarding the status of migrant children who were separated from their parents at the border this year under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy, stating that 24 children under the age of 5 remain separated. Under the policy, the administration separated more than 2,600 children from their parents, and reports that over 360 parents who are still separated are outside the country, with many having been deported without their children.
Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the US District Court for the District of Columbia halted the deportation in progress of a mother and daughter this week, and threatened to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt due to the fact that court proceedings appealing their deportation were in progress. An attorney for the ACLU, which filed a lawsuit on August 7, 2018 challenging the Department of Justice's recent policy change that aims to fast track the removal of asylum seekers who do not pass their credible fear interviews, and eliminates gang and domestic violence as grounds for seeking asylum in the US, received a notice in the middle of a hearing on the case before Judge Sullivan that the mother and daughter were on a deportation flight to El Salvador.
Judge Denies Trump Administration’s Request to Make ACLU Responsible for Reuniting Deported Parents With Separated Children
Judge Dana Sabraw strongly rejected the Trump Administration's recent argument that the ACLU and other immigrants' rights advocates should be responsible for locating the more than 450 immigrant parents the administration deported after separating them from their children earlier this year. The judge said it is "100%" the government's responsibility to locate and reunite deported parents with their children, and stated that if it fails to do so, it will have "permanently orphaned" the children it separated from them.
In a status update filed Monday, the federal government informed the court that has ordered it to reunite over 2,500 separated children with their parents by July 26 in a class action filed by the ACLU seeking reunification of separated immigrant families, that over 460 parents of separated children over the age of 5 may have already been deported without their children. The government has continued to state that any parent who has left the country had the opportunity to bring their child with them, but advocacy groups question whether parents deported under those circumstances understood their options.
In its pending class action on behalf of separated immigrant families, the ACLU has filed a proposal that would require the Trump administration to reunify the families it has separated under its "zero tolerance" immigration enforcement policy within a month. The proposal would also require reunification within 10 days for children younger than 5; phone contact between parents and children within 7 days; a halt on separations unless there is clear evidence of danger to the child; and a prohibition on deporting parents without their children unless the parent knowingly and voluntarily waives the right to reunification before deportation.
The zero tolerance immigration policy that has led to separating refugee parents from children at the U.S.-Mexico border faces its first legal challenge from a Guatemalan asylee.
Large Law Firms and Non-Profits Form Coalition to Reunite Families Separated Under “Zero Tolerance” Immigration Policy
A group of large law firms and non-profits have created a nationwide coalition aimed at reuniting immigrant families separated under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy. The coalition's effort has been named Project Corazon, and it will establish a system for parents to confidentially seek legal support in learning the whereabouts of their children. It is estimated that over 2,300 children have been taken from their parents since the administration's policy was implemented this spring.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has released a report detailing widespread and severe alleged abuse of immigrant children by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents between 2009 and 2014. Among 30,000 pages of documents obtained in an open records lawsuit are details of minors reportedly being beaten, threatened, sexually abused, and denied food and medical care by border agents.