NEW YORK – A civil rights group asked a U.S. judge to order the Trump administration to reunify more than 2,000 undocumented children taken from their immigrant parents and halt all future separations of families crossing the border to seek asylum.
President Donald Trump’s June 20 executive order purporting to reverse his child-separation policy has “explicit loopholes” that will prevent all families from being reunited and allow separations to continue, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a filing Monday in federal court in San Diego.
The New York-based group, which sued in March to block the policy, contends that some of the children are babies and toddlers whose parents haven’t been able to locate or speak to them since they were apprehended. One separated child was only 4 months old and another baby was taken from her mother while breastfeeding, the ACLU says.
“With each added day of separation, the terrible trauma inflicted by the government on both parents and children continues to mount,” ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said in the filing.
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, who is overseeing the case, this month denied the Trump administration’s request to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the practice, if true, “is brutal, offensive, and fails to comport with traditional notions of fair play and decency.”
The child-separation policy, spearheaded by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and defended by Trump’s staunchest allies, has sparked national outrage and bipartisan criticism in Congress. Critics have argued Trump’s directive may be prohibited by a 1997 court settlement in a lawsuit over the government’s detainment of immigrant children.
The ACLU is now asking Sabraw to issue an emergency order requiring the government to reunify children with their detained parents within 30 days and within 10 days for children under 5 years old, except if the U.S. has clear evidence the parent is unfit, a danger to the child or in a criminal facility.
The group further asked the court to order the government to provide parents with telephone contact with their children within seven days and stop separating children from their parents unless they pose a danger to the child.