Judge orders Trump admin to begin reuniting immigrant families

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A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the Trump administration to immediately move to reunify immigrant families that were separated under the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.

U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw granted a preliminary injunction to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) over the group’s lawsuit challenging the policy, which has been met with widespread condemnation both domestically and abroad.

In the ruling, Sabraw said that the Trump administration must reunify all immigrant children under the age of 5 with their parents within two weeks, and all minor children age 5 and older within 30 days.

Sabraw also ordered that all parents must be able to speak with their children within 10 days, prohibited the government from deporting any parent without their child and enjoined the administration from separating children from their parents at the border in the future unless the parent is unfit, presents a danger to the child or voluntarily declines to be reunited with their child.{mosads}

President Trump and his Cabinet have come under harsh criticism over the policy, which has resulted in at least 2,000 migrant children being separated from their parents after crossing the border illegally. 

Trump issued an executive order last week amid a storm of international outcry after The Associated Press reported children were being held in cages, ProPublica released audio of toddlers crying for their parents and child health organizations issued warnings about the potential irreparable harm being caused.

But in a conference call on the case on last week, Lee Gelernt, deputy director of ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, said the order does not speak at all to the reunification of parents and children who have already been separated.

“I think it’s a humanitarian crisis of the utmost proportion,” he said. “I realize I am almost pleading, but we believe it’s important for you to issue an injunction as early as tonight or this weekend.”

The Department of Justice, however, argued that ACLU should have had to make those arguments in additional briefs to the court and give the government time to respond.

In a statement following the order Tuesday night, Gelernt called the ruling an enormous victory for parents and children who thought they might never see each other again.

“Tears will be flowing in detention centers across the country when the families learn they will be reunited,” he said.

The ruling supports the ACLU’s complaint that Trump’s executive order does not properly address the reunification of families.

“There is no genuine dispute that the Government was not prepared to accommodate the mass influx of separated children,” Sabraw wrote. “There was no reunification plan in place, and families have been separated for months.”

The zero tolerance policy is also being challenged by a coalition of 18 Democratic attorneys general, who filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on Tuesday.

Sabraw noted in the ruling that the Trump administration is still free to prosecute illegal border crossers, but that the ruling seeks to preserve the constitutional rights of families in custody.

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