A U.S. federal judge ruled that the Trump administration is operating within its authority when separating families who enter the country illegally at the U.S.-Mexico border.
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego, California, said in a 26-page decision (pdf) on Monday that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials were “generally exercising their discretion to separate families at the border” consistent with immigrants “rights to family integrity and the courts orders.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued that border officials were separating families over minor infringements such as traffic violations or previous illegal border crossings. The organization asked the judge in July 2019 to rule on whether the government was justified in separating 911 children during the first year after the judge halted the general practice in June 2018.
Sabraw wrote: “Consistent with the courts class certification orders and preliminary injunction, defendants [ICE officials] have continued to separate parents and children crossing the border when there are concerns about parentage, the parent has a criminal history or communicable disease (or long-term medical need), or the parent is unfit or presents a danger to his or her child or others.”
He added that the court has not seen any evidence to show that the government has “returned to systematically separating families at the border.”
Sabraw also denied the ACLUs request to set new guidelines to use before separating families and to set up an independent monitor to supervise immigration officials, writing that such a request “is an invitation that is potentially massive in scope, invades an area that is particularly within the province of the Executive Branch to secure the nations border, and goes beyond this courts class certification and preliminary injunction orders.”
Sabraw asserted in his ruling that ICE officials “must conduct DNA testing before separating an adult from a child based on parentage concerns,” and that “subjective concerns about parentage—or inability to validate documentation—are an insufficient basis for separation when those concerns can be definitively addressed through use of readily accessible, inexpensive, and accurate scientific testing.”
He wrote that DNA testing is “an efficient and definitive way to resolve any concerns about fraudulent documentation.”
The ACLU said in a statement it was considering its next move in the case.
“The court strongly reaffirmed that the Trump administration bears the burden if it attempts to separate families based on an accusation that the adult is not the childs parent,” ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said. “We are evaluating the decision to determine next steps on how to ensure that children are not separated from their parents based on minor infractions.”
The U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment, Reuters and AP reported.
Trump signed an executive order on June 20, 2018, that he said will help stop the separation of families at the southwest border.
Just a week later, on June 26, 2018, Sabraw issued a preliminary injunction (pdf) that immigration officials were prohibited from separating parents and their children “absent a determination that the parent is unfit or presents a danger to the child,” among other requirements. Politico reported at the time that the Trump administration objected to Sabraws injunction, and asked Sabraw to refrain from issuing any orders while immigration agencies were working to implement Trumps executive order.
The main action in Trumps executive order at the time was a demand that Attorney General Jeff Sessions request the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to modify the Flores Settlement Agreement.
The Flores settlement forced ICE officials to release families that illegally enter the United States within 20 days after a federal judge, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee of the Central District of California, amended it in 2015 to include minors who arrive as part of a family unit. The 1997 agreement, reached during the Clinton administration, previously only applied to unaccompanied minors.
This means the children and their families then must be released into the interior of the United States, with a court date set for possibly years down the road. The Department of Homeland SecuriRead More – Source