The Department of Justice (DoJ) has screwed up. The agency told a federal judge Tuesday that it may have accidentally separated a father and toddler– who could both be US citizens- for as long as a year, in the process of enforcing the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy.
In a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against the government, on June 26th, over the separation of families at the southern border, Federal Judge Dana Sabraw granted a preliminary injunction requiring the reunification of children under the age of five by July 10th. In Tuesday’s hearing, Sabraw said that the families were improperly separated and that he would not extend the deadline, which means that the government would have been in violation of the court order as of Tuesday night. “These are firm deadlines. They’re not aspirational goals,” Sabraw said.
In a hearing held on Tuesday, the DoJ was asked to account for each failed reunification of the 102 younger children in its care. It documented 27 cases where it found reunification was not currently feasible, including one “because the parent’s location has been unknown for more than a year and records show the parent and child might be US citizens”.
That’s right. The parent and child could be US citizens. Previously, the Department of Justice revealed that the child’s father could not be located. The ACLU and the court were only made aware that both father and child might be US citizens on Tuesday.
“It actually happens much more frequently than you would believe,” Gelernt said. “They [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] make mistakes.”
It’s an egregious error though. The processes of verifying citizenship and birthright aren’t publicly known and this puts every American with a foreign surname at risk.
The ACLU called the revelation “horrific” and blamed the Trump administration’s poor execution of the practice of family separations.
“The fact that a citizen got caught up in this mess shows just how poor the government’s record-keeping was, and this is just the latest example,” said Lee Gelernt, the deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.