At the latest federal court hearing over the ongoing migrant family separation crisis, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw took the Trump administration to task for only reuniting about 1,442 of the more than 2,551 children by the court’s July 26 deadline. Sabraw took particular issue with the government’s lack of progress in finding and contacting the estimated 468 parents who were deported without their children. Hundreds more have been released into the U.S. interior and the Trump administration claims they are not able to find them.
“The government is at fault for losing several hundred parents in the process and that’s where we go next,” Sabraw said, adding that he is far from confident that the administration has made the necessary changes in inter-agency cooperation to ensure something like this never happens again.
“Each (department) was like its own stovepipe, each had its own boss, and they did not communicate,” he said. “What was lost in the process was the family.”
Yet the judge did not hold the government in contempt for missing the deadline to reunite more than a third of the forcibly separated children. Nor did he immediately rule on the American Civil Liberties Union’s motion to ban the Trump administration from immediately deporting reunified families.
After the hearing, lead ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt told reporters that he hopes Judge Sabraw agrees that the parents who have a final order of removal need at least a week to talk to a lawyer and their child about the heart-wrenching choice in front of them: whether to leave their child behind in the U.S. to pursue his or her own asylum claim or be deported together.
“It’s remarkable that after all these months of keeping children separated, they’re unwilling to give seven days for them to make a decision that is literally life-altering,” he said.
That stay of removal should also apply, Gelernt argued, to the 120 parents the Trump administration claims waived their right to be reunified with their child. The ACLU and other legal groups have collected testimony from dozens of parents who say they were misled or coerced into signing such forms.
“When these parents find out what they actually signed, they break down in tears. They do want their children back,” he said. “I can’t imagine anything closer to torture than to send these parents back home to their countries and having to live the rest of the lives knowing that just because they got confused or felt pressure that they gave away their child by mistake.”
The parties will be back in Judge Sabraw’s court next Friday.