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
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
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
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
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
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.