ACLU to Court: Order the Government to Reunite the Families

UPDATE (06/27/2018): A federal judge ordered the reunification of thousands of parents and children forcibly separated by the Trump administration. The American Civil Liberties Union sought the nationwide preliminary injunction to halt the practice and immediately reunite all the separated families. Thousands of families have been torn apart by this inhumane practice, which is designed to scare other families from seeking refuge in the United States. In its ruling, the court said all children must be reunited within 30 days; children under five within 14 days; and all parents must be able to speak with their children within 10 days. The court also prohibited any deportation of parents without their children, absent of a knowing waiver. In the future, no child can be separated unless it is genuinely in the child’s best interest.

The ACLU’s class action lawsuit to end family separation and immediately reunite children and parents has reached a pivotal point, following a June 22 status conference where the government was unable to articulate a plan to reunite thousands of children in its custody with their parents.

The lack of foresight and planning is galling. For each day the government stalls, thousands of children are subjected to irreparable trauma. What’s more, there have been reports that immigration officers are actively pressuring parents to give up their asylum claims in order to be reunited with their children.

This cruelty and utter contempt for the welfare of children and the rule of law cannot stand. Our government cannot be allowed to hold children hostage in order to sabotage the legal claims of people seeking refuge.

On Monday, we asked the court to hold the Trump administration to account, and require it to reunify all children with their parents within 30 days, and within 10 days for children under five; provide parents, within seven days, telephonic contact with their children; stop future separations of children from their parents; and not remove separated parents from the United States without their children, unless the parent affirmatively, knowingly, and voluntarily waives the right to reunification before removal.

The court’s role is more important than ever in light of recent actions by the administration seeking to deflect the public’s attention. On June 20, President Trump signed an executive order that purports to end further separations of families at the border. The order, however, contains a significant carve-out authorizing family separation “when there is a concern that detention of an alien child with the child’s alien parent would pose a risk to the child’s welfare.”

Those vague terms are not defined, and they would allow enormous leeway for immigration officers to justify separations that don’t meet constitutional standards. For example, DHS has defended its actions in taking away the 7-year-old child of Ms. L, a Congolese mother who sought asylum at a port of entry. Their justification is that Ms. L did not have her documents with her by the time she reached the United States after a 10-country journey from the Congo — a common occurrence for asylum seekers. But rather than making a meaningful attempt to verify their relationship, the government separated a child from her mother for close to five months. There is nothing in the executive order that would stop this type of unnecessary separation and trauma from happening in the future.

Just as pressing, the executive order does not address the reunification of already separated families at all, and the government has no meaningful plan to swiftly ensure that such reunifications occur. Instead, during a telephonic status conference with the judge, the government’s attorney attempted to suggest that the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s preexisting processes for releasing immigration children from its custody would suffice.

It will not.

ORR’s sponsorship and reunification processes were designed for the entirely different situation of a child who comes to the border alone, where the agency must identify and vet a sponsor (family member or otherwise). They are simply inadequate to quickly reunite a child who was forcibly taken from his or her own parents. For example, ORR has no systems designed to flag a child as having been separated from a parent at or near the time of the family’s arrest, to track the identity and detention location of the separated child’s parent after the separation, to ensure regular contact between a separated detained child and her detained parent, or to reunify the child and parent in an ICE family detention facility.

ORR’s shortcomings are on clear display considering the steps it has taken to allow communication between parents and children, much less reunite them. For instance, ORR has created a 1-800 hotline number that supposedly allows parents to find the children who have been taken from them, but it regularly puts people on hold for 30 minute periods — a length of time which is infeasible for detained parents to stay on the line. The hotline is now generating a constant busy signal.

Similarly, DHS has created a hotline for ORR caseworkers or attorneys trying to find parents. But that hotline merely permits a caller to request contact with a detained parent, and field offices can decline to respond to such requests.

It’s clear that if the government is left to follow its existing practices — which put the onus on parents to find their children but offers no reliable system for them to do so — the overwhelming majority of children will not be reunited any time in the near future.

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Jackie Wilson

I cannot thank you enough for what U do for this country. Words cannot convey how much I appreciate what you are doing to make this right, and stop this stain on our country.

Deborah Vilcheck

Parents need to have critical information communicated to them in their language and regarding waivers of reunification they should have a reasonable time (90 days) during which they can withdraw their waiver and then be reunited with their children. Further, siblings should be reunified immediately even if not at the same time as reunification with parents.

Concerned Parent

Is the ACLU asking to stop separating children from their "parents" unless they pose a danger to the child. Has the politics of the ACLU clouded your vision so much that you can't see the danger these parents pose to the children?

Is the ACLU asking the court to not take into account the peril created on the children by these "parents" and if this is any indication of future child abuse? Just what doesn't pose a danger to the child by crossing illegally into the US or the thousand mile trip through mountains and deserts made alone by children because they were forced into participation by their parents just to provide a get out of jail free card for themselves or the organized smugglers that they conspired with to aid their illegal entrance into the US.

For the sake of the children, these "parents" have a lot to answer for and should face the full scrutiny of the authorities. Are these the kind of people that we want to be around our children? Just whose civil liberties is the ACLU looking out for? It obviously is not for mine or the children.

MeThinks

"Concerned Parent", my left gnut. This is obviously a nom-de-plume for Donald Trump, as it has been written at 3:17 am. As is his practice, at that time he was probably sitting on the toilet, tweeting. I assume that the reason for the "parent" part of his pseudonym is from the that that he was probably because he was probably "birthing a brown baby" at the time.

MASON dixon

Build a wall. Deport all illegals. stop the political correctness of the radical left and liberal groups like the ACLU from dictating immigration policy. Also stop these radical left-wing groups trying to change public perception and public policy by the radical left-wing lies.

Anonymous

If the Mason Dixon line is a Republican border reflecting the political discourse , those to the south are deplorables and those to the north are true patriots.

Dr. Timothy Leary

Reunite them on the way back to Twatamala.

Anonymous

You clearly display your Bigotry & Hate ! If you are Not a American Indian you too are here only because of your immigrant family! or your direct immigration, Whits Only, Right? Trumpet!

Peter Eidenbach

The children being separated from their parents are being willfully deprived of their constitutional rights. The responsible federal officials should be charged immediately under Section 242 of Title 18 (USC). It seems to me their actions amount to kidnapping.

Anonymous

Which Constitutional Rights are those? When the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, children were considered property of their fathers, so didn't have any rights. If their Father died they, and their mother, were shuffled off to poor houses because women couldn't own property and also didn't have rights. As a result you won't find a section in the Constitution about children's rights.

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