Immigrant Parents Ask Federal Court To Force Trump Admin To Return Their Kids

AUSTIN, TX - JUNE 30: A demonstrator uses baby clothes to spell out the word "reunite" during a rally against the Trump administration's immigration policies outside the Texas Capitol in Austin, Texas, on June 30, 2018. Demonstrations are being held in cities across the U.S. Saturday to call for the reunification of separated families and to protest the detention of children and families seeking asylum at the border. (Photo by Tamir Kalifa/Getty Images)
Tamir Kalifa/Getty Images North America

Late last month, a federal judge in Washington gave the Trump administration about a week to show it was acting in good faith to follow a California court order to reunite immigrant families — and particularly to make progress in reuniting three Central American political asylum seekers held in ICE detention in South Texas, who filed a lawsuit after their children were taken from them under the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.

If the government did not act on its own, U.S. District Judge James Friedman warned, he would be forced to issue a temporary restraining order.

On Thursday night, lawyers for the parents told Judge Friedman that while the government had given the parents more information about their children and some had been granted more phone contact — both demands in their lawsuit — they needed the court’s intervention.

“The Government has yet to provide any information about reunification plans, conditions, or dates,” wrote attorneys with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid who are representing the parents. “Case managers with whom Plaintiffs have communicated have offered no insight into reunification.”

During oral arguments on June 27, the Trump administration promised the plaintiffs and the court that case managers would provide the parents with an estimated date of reunification and regular updates along the way. They also promised to facilitate more communication between the separated family members.

But in this week’s legal filing, the attorneys said a couple of phone calls per week between the parents and their young children is not sufficient contact.

“Not only are Plaintiffs being forcibly separated from their children without any legitimate reason, they are unable to communicate with their children on a sufficiently frequent basis,” the filing stated, adding that one of the parents has a toddler so young he cannot speak by phone, and she has not been allowed to video conference with him as promised. The families are asking the court to guarantee them at least four phone calls per week including one conference call.

The parents similarly say the few updates they have received about their children’s well-being have been far from adequate.

“Plaintiffs have been deprived of learning certain critical information, specifically: the type of medication being administered to Plaintiffs’ children by Defendants; (2) details about the “therapy” and “counseling” Defendants are providing to Plaintiffs’ children, except that it involves bully and abuse prevention; (3) accurate information about who is sharing rooms with Plaintiffs’ children; and (4) little or no information about Plaintiffs’ children’s schooling and educational performance.”

One of the mothers in the case says she has also been refused information about where her 9-year-old son is being held, and has been told only that it is a foster home.

The Trump administration responded to these accusations by telling the court that they were only made aware of the communication issues on July 3, and say they are working diligently to put the parents and children in contact. Pointing to the California federal ruling ordering the reunification of all of the thousands of families separated by the Trump administration, the Justice Department attorneys say they will share any updates in that overall effort with the plaintiffs in this separate case.

Judge Friedman will hear arguments for a preliminary injunction on the separation of these families on July 12, but he could grant them a temporary restraining order before then to speed the reunifications.

Read the filing below:

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