On Tuesday, June 26, as the result of an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit that began on behalf of a 7-year-old Congolese child separated from her mother, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered that the Trump administration stop its family separation policy at the Mexico-U.S. border. The order also requires that children and parents separated as a result of the family separation policy be reunited within specified time limits.
The court order does not prevent the U.S. government from prosecuting illegal migrants, or from enforcing immigration laws. It does, incidentally, underline the fact that the family separation policy was not an immigration law; nor was it a law at all.
“The facts set forth before the Court portray reactive governance – responses to address a chaotic circumstance of the Government’s own making. They belie measured and ordered governance, which is central to the concept of due process enshrined in our Constitution,” Sabraw said.
Here’s what the court order requires:
- That federal officials stop detaining adults separately from their minor children, except when the parent is determined to be unfit, or when the parent declines to be detained with his/her children
- That all parents be reunited with their children who are under the age of five within 14 days
- That all parents be reunited with their minor children who are age five and over within 30 days
- That parents be allowed to have contact with their children by phone within 10 days, if not already in contact with the child(ren)
Some have argued that the Trump administration’s family separation policy is no different from separating American children from their parents if their parents are jailed. After all, they say, those crossing the border illegally are also breaking the law.
Sabraw pointed out, however, that when an American is jailed, the government keeps track of not only his or her children, but also even personal effects such as money, cars, etc. Trump’s family separation policy had no provision for keeping an account of the migrant children separated from their parents at the border. Consequently, the federal government now faces the challenge of reuniting many of the approximately 2,000 children – many of them too young to talk – with their families.
Nevertheless, citing the vast resources the U.S. government can access when it really needs to get something done, Sabraw, the ACLU, and many others remain optimistic that reuniting these families is possible. What’s more, the court order against the family separation policy is an important hopeful step toward preventing similar practices in the future.
Federal judge orders families separated at border to be reunited within 30 days | CBS This Morning [2018-06-27]
Federal Judge Orders U.S. to Reunite Migrant Children with Their Families After Separation at Border | Democracy Now! [2018-06-27]