In a ruling late Tuesday, US District Judge Dana Sabraw wrote that the federal government had adopted a practice of separating families without “any effective system or procedure” for tracking children, for allowing parents and children to communicate while they were apart, or for reuniting families once a parent’s criminal case was over. He called it a “startling reality.”
“The facts set forth before the Court portray reactive governance — responses to address a chaotic circumstance of the Government’s own making,” Sabraw wrote. “They belie measured and ordered governance, which is central to the concept of due process enshrined in our Constitution.”
Sabraw authorized the case, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union in federal court in San Diego, to proceed as a class action. The lawsuit now covers all adults in immigration custody — including migrant parents who entered the United States at an official port of entry as well as those who did not — who have a child who has been will be separated and placed into government custody.
Under Sabraw’s order, the federal government is now blocked from separating families while a parent is in immigration detention, absent evidence that a parent is unfit or poses a danger to the child, or that the parent has waived being held together. He also ordered the government to reunite all class members with their children within 30 days, or 14 days if a child was younger than five years old, and to allow parents to contact separated children within 10 days.
Trump officials had contended Trump’s executive order ending separations and substituting indefinite detention had solved the problem, but the judge said it had not.
The judge’s order faulted the Trump administration for chaos “of the government’s own making” and said:
“The unfortunate reality is that under the present system, migrant children are not accounted for with the same efficiency and accuracy as property.”