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Judge Halts Family Deportations        07/17 06:22

   A federal judge on Monday ordered a temporary halt to deportations of 
immigrant families reunited after being separated at the border, as the Trump 
administration races to meet a July 26 deadline for putting more than 2,500 
children back in their parents' arms.

   SAN DIEGO (AP) -- A federal judge on Monday ordered a temporary halt to 
deportations of immigrant families reunited after being separated at the 
border, as the Trump administration races to meet a July 26 deadline for 
putting more than 2,500 children back in their parents' arms.

   U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw imposed a delay of at least a week after a 
request from the American Civil Liberties Union, which cited "persistent and 
increasing rumors ... that mass deportations may be carried out imminently and 
immediately upon reunification."

   Justice Department attorney Scott Stewart opposed the delay but did not 
address the rumors in court.

   The ACLU requested that parents have at least one week to decide whether to 
pursue asylum in the U.S. after they are reunited with their children. The 
judge held off on deciding that issue until the government outlines its 
objections in writing by next Monday.

   ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt told reporters that he was "extremely pleased" by 
the halt and that parents need time to think over with their children and 
advisers whether to seek asylum.

   "It's hard to imagine a more profound or momentous decision," he said.

   The hearing in San Diego occurred as the government accelerated 
reunifications at eight unidentified U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement 
locations. The families are scattered around the country, the adults at 
immigration detention centers, the children at shelters overseen by the 
government.

   Annunciation House, a shelter in El Paso, said the government has begun 
transporting children in a "tremendous amount of airline flights" to El Paso 
and elsewhere. Director Ruben Garcia said he is preparing to take in as many as 
100 reunified families a day.

   Late last month, Sabraw ordered the government to reunite the thousands of 
children and parents who were forcibly separated at the border by the Trump 
administration this spring. He set a deadline of July 10 for children under 5 
and gave the government until July 26 to reunite 2,551 youngsters ages 5 to 17.

   On Monday, the judge commended the government for a revised plan submitted 
over the weekend to reunify the older children. The plan calls for DNA testing 
and other screening measures if red flags are raised during background checks.

   Jonathan White of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, who is overseeing the 
government's effort, assured the judge that some reunifications of older 
children already occurred, and "it is our intent to reunify children promptly." 
He went into detail on how the process was working.

   The judge praised White's testimony, saying, "What is in place is a great 
start to making a large number of reunifications happen very, very quickly."

   "I have every confidence that you are the right person to do this," he told 
White.

   It was a sharp change from Friday, when the government submitted a plan for 
"truncated" vetting that excluded DNA testing and other procedures used for 
children under 5. The government official said the abbreviated vetting was 
necessary to meet the court-imposed deadline but put children at significant 
risk.

   Sabraw said late Friday that he was having second thoughts about his belief 
that the government was acting in good faith. In a hastily arranged conference 
call, he told administration officials that its plan misrepresented his 
instructions and showed "a very grudging reluctance to do things."

   Sabraw said in court Monday that the initial plan was "exasperating," 
''completely unhelpful," and "written in a manner that seemed wholly divorced 
from the context of this case."

   "This is not hard stuff," he said. "It's laborious, but it's not difficult 
to do."

   Sabraw has scheduled three more hearings over the next two weeks to ensure 
compliance with his order.

   Also Monday, advocates said in federal court in Los Angeles that immigrant 
children in government custody are being given poor food, kept in unsanitary 
conditions and face insults and threats.

   The allegations came amid a long-running effort by attorneys to have a 
court-appointed monitor oversee the U.S. government's compliance with a 
decades-old settlement governing the treatment of immigrant children caught on 
the border.

   Attorneys interviewed immigrant parents and children in June and July about 
their experiences in Border Patrol facilities, family detention and a youth 
shelter. They described much of the testimony as "shocking and atrocious."

   Families described meals of frozen sandwiches and spoiled food, overflowing 
toilets and guards yelling at them and kicking them while they slept. Children 
said they were hungry and scared when their parents were taken away.


(KA)

 
 
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