WASHINGTON — A judge in the U.S. District Court for Southern California ruled Tuesday night that the Trump administration has 30 days to reunite children forcibly separated after arriving at the southern border with their parents.
There are other, shorter deadlines for the federal government to meet, as well: Children under the age of 5 must be reunited with their parents within 14 days, and all parents must have access to speak with their children by phone within 10 days.
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw also blocked the administration from deporting adults without their children unless the parent “affirmatively, knowingly, and voluntarily declines to be reunited with the child” prior to being expelled from the country.
“There is no genuine dispute that the Government was not prepared to accommodate the mass influx of separated children. Measures were not in place to provide for communication between governmental agencies responsible for detaining parents and those responsible for housing children, or to provide for ready communication between separated parents and children. There was no reunification plan in place, and families have been separated for months. Some parents were deported at separate times and from different locations than their children. Migrant families that lawfully entered the United States at a port of entry seeking asylum were separated. And families that were separated due to entering the United States illegally between ports of entry have not been reunited following the parent’s completion of criminal proceedings and return to immigration detention,” Sabraw wrote.
The ACLU sought a nationwide preliminary injunction to immediately reunite families, and the judge ruled that they “demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits, irreparable harm, and that the balance of equities and the public interest weigh in their favor, thus warranting issuance of a preliminary injunction.”
He wrote in the ruling that the family separations were “a chaotic circumstance of the Government’s own making” and “belie measured and ordered governance, which is central to the concept of due process enshrined in our Constitution.”
The judge noted that “the government readily keeps track of personal property of detainees in criminal and immigration proceedings… yet the government has no system in place to keep track of, provide effective communication with, and promptly produce alien children.”
Sabraw scheduled a status conference on the injunction for July 6.
“This ruling is an enormous victory for parents and children who thought they may never see each other again,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, who argued the case. “Tears will be flowing in detention centers across the country when the families learn they will be reunited.”
The ruling stems from the case filed in February of Congolese asylum-seeker separated from her 7-year-old daughter. The list of plaintiffs has since expanded.
President Trump has not yet responded to the ruling. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor this morning that the ruling “certifies what we in the Congress already expect: that the administration will expend all resources at its disposal to immediately reunite the over 2,000 families who have been separated.”
“This should be the president’s first order of business: to undo the harm he’s caused through his chaotic and cruel family separation policy,” Schumer said.