Judge rules thousands more migrants should be in lawsuit over family separations

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A federal judge ruled Friday that potentially thousands of migrant families who were separated at the southern border under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy could be added to an existing class-action lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw had ordered the administration last year to reunite over 2,800 migrant children who were separated from their families at the border. That order applied to those separated after June 26.

{mosads}Sabraw’s latest order finds that his decision applies to those detained as early as July 1, 2017. The ruling comes in light of reports that families could have been separated as early as July 2017 before the policy was officially announced.

The decision allows potentially thousands of families who were separated in the 11-month gap to join the class-action lawsuit and sets up a hearing for later this month to determine if the Trump administration will have to identify the additional family members or even reunite them all.

“The hallmark of a civilized society is measured by how it treats its people and those within its borders,” Sabraw wrote. “That Defendants may have to change course and undertake additional effort to address these issues does not render modification of the class definition unfair; it only serves to underscore the unquestionable importance of the effort and why it is necessary (and worthwhile).

“In sum, that Plaintiffs were alerted to the existence of a handful of parents within this group, and that subsequent investigation by the [Office of Inspector General] confirmed that there was not just a handful but potentially thousands of parents in this group, does not render modification of the class definition unfair. … Accordingly, Plaintiffs’ motion to modify the class definition is granted.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is spearheading the lawsuit and led the charge for the class to be modified after the additional separations were revealed.

“The court made clear that potentially thousands of children’s lives are at stake and that the Trump administration cannot simply ignore the devastation it has caused,” ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said in a statement to media outlets. 

The Department of Health and Human Services’s Office of Refugee Resettlement has been fighting the class expansion saying it does not have the resources to conduct such a review.

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