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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SgrA*

If there was no plan involved with this policy, then in falls directly on Sessions' responsibility in his capacity. You can blame Miller for creating the tenor of the policy's purpose, but the actual handling of it through effecting it in work levels in the field, and contract development for facilities and supplies, all falls on the person who spearheaded the "Zero Tolerance" policy. If there was no plan to return the children to the parents, this shows it wasn't in the policy to begin with, and no budget for increased facilities. The Justice Department now seeks to tap the DoD's budget to get soldiers to incarcerate the enemy combatants at the boarder. Maybe the Trump government will need to make slush funds available, to pool together some piece-meal approach here. When this becomes a military operation, where the direction of the policy is to use all budgetary means to pool the necessary funding -- not concerned with reporting on this issue to Congress. And would it matter, when Sessions told Congress dozens of times he "couldn't remember," while being questioned on his contacts with Russia. In fact, all the members of the Trump campaign that had contact with Russians for campaign support; even through Bannon and Cambridge Analytica's business contacts with Russian clients; and the NRA's participating as a conduit for passing funds in-between.
We have allowed ourselves to be a country under seize -- showing how people are to be judged by their character. If a person's character shows high levels of deceit, mean-spirited actions, and bigotry spewing, you know the poison of these characteristics reflects upon their character. People with good character have better behavior to work with others, and show their talents with good will and trustworthiness in agreements. The others have to be eliminated for their worst contributions that have the repugnant effects shown through their character. Vote them out, and in the meantime keep shining a light on their activities to score them with their cheating as is their wont.

John D Norvell

I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS IF THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION DOES NOT COMPLY WITH THE JUDGE'S DIRECTIVE REGARDING THE MIGRANT CHILDREN AT THE END OF JULY; CAN TRUMP, SESSIONS, MILLER, AND OTHERS BE SUBJECT TO THE WORLD COURT OF THE UNITED NATIONS FOR CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY AND INDICTED? HOW CAN AMERICAN CITIZENS GET THE BALL ROLLING?

Kimberly Pineda

I think that this was the right decision for Trump to sign that executive order, but he should've never separated the families in the first place. He should've thought about all the children that will have no parents since the beginning and how everyone will be affected by it. I can't imagine all the kids that will be traumitized by what has happened. ACLU should really do something about this and make a change about this issue that we have in the US, because its not right to separate families. Everyone deserves to have a loving family.

Anonymous

This is a an abomination. A national disgrace. Shame!!

Anonymous

This entire fiasco has been planned, funded, organized and executed by fringe liberal groups hell bent on destroying the United States as it currently exists! Democrat Politicians are betting by appearing to support illegals they will earn their votes thus enabling them to seize and retain power! They want to destroy the Constitution and rewrite it so every possible nut political group, race and sexual deviant gets something for nothing and legitimizing their nefarious cause. The ACLU supports these lunatics. Hope we can end you all

Anonymous

You listen/believe Fox News or some other wacko white supremacist org, Dems Had/Have NOTHING to do with. Get some help, remove your foil hat.

Judith L Herman

I am writing on behalf of my medical school class, which recently celebrated our 50th reunion. My classmates and I have been horrified by the separations of immigrant children from their parents, which we know causes long lasting harm to the children. It's clear that the federal government hasn't a clue how to go about reuniting families, even if they wanted to, and that they will soon be in contempt of court. One idea that has occurred to us is that the International Red Cross, with their expertise in handling humanitarian emergencies, might be the best agency to take charge of this process. Assuming the Red Cross were willing to take on this assignment, could the court be asked to order it?

Valentin Martinez

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen tour work is extremely important.Thank you .A small question for you.Why isn't anyone asking about child abuse charges against the perpetrators of this monstrosity.Not to mention terrorising woman.

Anonymous

OK, it's July 6 the first deadline imposed by the court. The administration must ensure that all of the kidnapped children have had telephone conversations with their parents by the end of the day. How many have actually had such conversations, and how will we know whether the administration has met this first deadline? If there's one child who has not had such a conversation by the end of the day, the administration will be in violation of the court order. In that event, I hope those responsible will be held in contempt of court. And if DT pardons them, I hope be will be held in contempt of court (as I think he should have been when he pardoned Arpaio).
BTW, has anyone who came with children been deported without their children since the court order was issued? If so, the administration is already in violation of the court order. (Note that the court order specifically prohibits any such deportations.)

Anonymous

Who goes to jail for contempt of court if the deadline is not made?? Oh I forgot the penalty will be nonexistent, or a fine which taxpayers will foot the bill for, and not the individuals responsible, most will fall under the guise of following orders and doing their job.

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