A federal judge in California has ruled that United States immigration authorities must reunite immigrant children with their families, and they have 30 days to do so. A preliminary injunction from Judge Dana Sabraw stated that authorities must reunite any children under the age of 5 within 14 days.
Shaw’s federal ruling is in direct response to a lawsuit that was backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, reports USA Today. An anonymous woman filed the lawsuit after she was separated from her child at the border. A class action suit was soon filed on the families’ behalf, in an effort to fight against the “zero tolerance” policy.
Attorney Lee Gelernt, who represented the immigrant families, praised the ruling, calling it a “complete victory for these parents and children who feared they might never see each other again.”
“Tears of joy will be flowing in the detention centers when they hear the news. We hope the administration will now turn its efforts to reuniting these kids.”
Following the federal ruling on immigrant families, the Department of Justice made a statement. It is “imperative that Congress finally act to give federal law enforcement the ability to simultaneously enforce the law and keep families together.”
Under the terms of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, immigrant children were separated from their families upon parental detainment for allegedly entering the United States illegally. Because of Judge Sabraw’s ruling, families will be reunited in two to four weeks.
In direct response to the ruling, and after a public uproar, President Donald Trump quickly signed an executive order, stopping family separation at the border. The executive order is meant to help authorities sort through issues as immigrant families are brought back together.
The challenge facing the government officials is immense. There are more than 2,000 children currently separated from their parents, who now must be reunited with their families sometime within the next 30 days. There are a number of laws that place a limit on the timeframe a minor can be held in detention.
Although the judge only mandated that the children be reunited with their parents, entire families may end up being released from custody due to other court rulings and laws surrounding the detention of minors. On the other hand, parents may end up waiving the rights of their children so that their families can remain together. Either way, President Trump’s administration only has 30 days to figure it out.
If the child’s rights aren’t waived, the Trump administration may be forced to drop any criminal charges against immigrant parents as they near the end of their child’s 20 days stay in detention. This move will almost certainly encourage other migrants to attempt illegal entry into the United States.
A former immigration judge, Arthur, stated that “until Congress reforms the detention laws, or the Trump administration successfully appeals the ruling, federal prosecutors may have no other choice.”
ACLU attorney, Lee Gelernt, had the following to say about the timeframe given to complete the reunification.
“The U.S. government has such considerable resources that when they prioritize a task, they can do it. It’s not insurmountable.”
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has stated that finding the children isn’t an issue. Every child can be found easily through the use of the department’s online system. The parents are worried, Senator Ron Wyden stated, because most of the inmates do not have access to the internet and therefore are not aware, themselves, of their child’s location or safety.
In addition to the reunification of immigrant families, Judge Dana Sabraw also ruled that the parents be allowed to speak to their children by telephone as soon as possible, easing some of the fear and tension the separation has caused.