Human Rights - Politics

Federal Judge Refuses To Give Trump Administration More Time To Reunite Separated Families

Published on July 7, 2018 by Athena Pallas

The Trump administration faces two court-imposed deadlines for reuniting separated immigrant children with their parents: this Tuesday (July 10) for all children under the age of 5 and July 26 for all other children. With their efforts looking so far as if they are not up to the challenge, the Trump administration asked U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw for more time, but Sabraw has now rejected their request.

Sabraw indicated that lacking “an articulable reason” for not being able to meet the deadlines, the Trump administration must abide them. Presumably that means that the request Sabraw received from the administration to extend the deadlines did not contain any such “articulable reason” for being unable to meet the deadlines. According to The Hill:

A federal judge on Friday appeared to reject the Trump administration’s request to extend the deadline to reunite families separated at the border under the “zero tolerance” policy. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said that the department must comply with the July 10 deadline to reunite children under 5 years old with their parents, and July 26 for other children, “unless there is an articulable reason.” The Justice Department had requested an extension on the court-ordered deadlines, saying that it needed more time to match 101 children under 5 with their parents using DNA testing.

Judge Sabraw also ruled that the Trump administration must share a full list of all the separated children under the age of 5 with the plaintiff in the case, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). There are believed to be 101 children under the age of 5 among the more than 2000 separated immigrant children. Sabraw indicated that the ACLU and the government could go through the list and, on a case by case basis, identify individual children that may not be able to be reunited by the deadline. Presumably if there is then that “articulable reason” Sabraw requested, Sabraw may permit extensions on this case by case basis, but it remains to be seen if the Trump administration will be able to give such a reason, beyond bureaucratic incompetence, which is not a reasonable excuse. The deadline for the Trump administration sharing the list with the ACLU is today at 5PM PDT (8PM EDT). According to The Hill:

A federal judge has given the Trump administration until late Saturday to release a list of the roughly 100 migrant children under the age of five who were detained separately from their parents upon entering the United States…“What I’m contemplating is the government provides a list to plaintiffs counsel by tomorrow 5 p.m. (PDT, midnight GMT) with the identities of the children,” Sabraw said, according to Reuters. Attorneys representing the Trump administration responded by telling Sabraw that the government is struggling to reunite some children with parents who have already been released from detention, noting that as a result it may miss the deadline in some cases. Sabraw declined to extend the deadline, however, and ordered the attorneys to present the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which brought a class action suit against the administration, with expectations for each child on whether the government will meet the deadline.

The ACLU has indicated that it, along with multiple private agencies, would be happy to help the government reunite the separated families, but it does not appear as if the government is so far availing itself of those resources. The reunification really should not be this difficult. All that would have been needed would be an accurate record of the individuals arrested together at the border, their relationships, and their location. Any detention system should at all times have a full accounting of the identities and locations of detainees and the circumstances of their arrest. Since it appears that the Trump administration in many cases lacks those records, it is clear there is some bureaucratic incompetence happening and it is clear that, were it not for a judge’s order, the Trump administration had no expectation that they would ever reunite these families, so sloppy record-keeping was seen as permissible by the Trump administration.

In many cases the Trump administration is now using DNA testing to match children with their parents; DNA testing under such circumstances had up to now been seen as a last resort. According to Newsmax, on Thursday U.S. Health and Human Services official Jonathan White described the testing as a “faster but costlier method for confirming parentage than collecting and assessing documentation and anecdotal information.”

Thankfully the courts are forcing the Trump administration to reunite separated children with their parents, because it is very clear that without court orders, the Trump administration would shirk their responsibility to reunite the families it had separated.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons.