In a new court filing Wednesday afternoon, the American Civil Liberties Union accused the Trump administration of presenting separated parents with their legal options in a “coercive and misleading manner,” leading many of those parents to sign deportations papers renouncing their right to be reunited with their children without fully understanding the consequences.
The ACLU is demanding U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, who ordered the government to reunify most separated families by Thursday, to block the administration from deporting any parents until they have had at least seven days post-reunification to talk to their children and an attorney about “what might be the most consequential decision of their lives.” After keeping parents and children apart for months with little communication, the filing argues, “the Government should not now be able to argue that it cannot wait a mere 7 days to remove these families, so that they can be advised on their life-altering decisions.”
With more than 100 pages of testimony gathered by the ACLU’s attorneys at immigration detention centers, the filing argues that the separated parents are currently not receiving due process despite Judge Sabraw’s ruling in their favor. The ACLU is representing parents of separated immigrant families in the class action lawsuit.
The Trump administration is presenting the parents with a court-ordered form describing their rights under the class action lawsuit and giving them choice between leaving their child in the U.S., being deported as a family, or staying and seeking asylum. But the ACLU says many parents were given the form in a language they do not speak, were given mere minutes to make the decision, and were told incorrectly that their right to be reunited with their child was conditioned on them dropping their asylum claims.
Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, an attorney with the American Immigration Council, said in an affidavit submitted to the court that out of the more than 90 parents his team interviewed over the last few days, 52 had signed papers giving up their right to get their children back. Several had been given the forms in a language they do not speak.
“Many of these individuals indicated that they felt coerced into relinquishing their rights,” he wrote. “Still others appeared totally unaware that they had done so. Indeed, some individuals were adamant that they had signed a paper that said they had chosen to be reunited with their children.”
The ACLU warns that unless the judge intervenes, deportations without informed consent are sure to spike in the coming days. With the Trump administration rushing to reunify families by the Thursday deadline, hundreds of families will be arriving at once at the family detention centers in Texas designated to receive them, and hundreds have final orders of removal. There, they can only meet with attorneys within certain hours and when there is space available — one facility has only five rooms for attorney-client consultations.
A week is necessary post-reunification, the ACLU argues, because “sometimes initial meetings are too difficult because the parents are too traumatized to even receive basic advisals.”
Read the ACLU’s filing below: