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Will Immigrant Families Really Be Reunited in One Month

In an optimistic ruling, a judge in California has ordered an official halt on families being separated at the border, and demanded that all children separated from their parents be reunited within 30 days. Children five and under must be brought back with their families within two weeks. And all children must be able to contact their parents via phone within the next 10 days.


But with the chaos that has ensued at the border and within the Trump administration, it remains to be seen how this will play out.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw did not mince words when he pointed out that the government created this mess; he wrote that “the facts set forth before the court portray reactive governance responses to address a chaotic circumstance of the government’s own making. They belie measured and ordered governance, which is central to the concept of due process enshrined in our Constitution.”

Parents and children will no longer be separated unless the guardian poses an imminent threat to the child, and parents cannot be deported without their children.

“The unfortunate reality is that under the present system migrant children are not accounted for with the same efficiency and accuracy as property. Certainly, that cannot satisfy the requirements of due process,” wrote Sabraw, who himself is the son of a Japanese immigrant and was born in California.

Government lawyers, citing guidance from the Department of Homeland Security, said they’re already on it and argued that a court injunction will only complicate matters.

“A court imposed process is likely to slow the reunification process and cause confusion and conflicting obligations, rather than speed the process of reunifying families in a safe and efficient manner,” attorneys said.

President Trump’s executive order last week demanded that families no longer be separated at the border. But it did nothing to address the families that have already been torn apart.

And a statement from DHS over the weekend seemed to be adding to the confusion, though. DHS gave no timeline on how families would be reunited but said, “The United States government knows the location of all children in its custody and is working to reunite them with their families.”

The government has not been quick to act, even after Trump and DHS’s announcements. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar reported that his department currently has 2,047 children just six fewer than when Trump issued his order.

Azar may have hinted that not all families will be reunited. He pointed out that children of deported parents “have independent rights” and added, “We often do find, when a parent is deported, that they ask the child to remain separate and remain in this country.”

Meanwhile, DHS’s statement is a half-truth at best, according to Michael Avenatti, attorney to porn star Stormy Daniels who is now legally representing dozens of immigrants.

“The assertion that the government knows where all these kids are They’re either playing word games or they’re lying,” Avenatti said on MSNBC. “Look, the government knows where the kids that have been separated are, but they can’t match children to mothers.”

He cited his own clients, 80 percent of which “the government can’t tell us where those mothers’ children are, even though it’s been, in many cases, three to four weeks later.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which brought on the lawsuit on behalf of two families who were separated, praised Sabraw’s injunction.

“This is an enormous win and will mean that this humanitarian crisis is coming to an end,” said Lee Gelernt, the lawsuit’s lead attorney. “We hope the Trump administration will not think about appealing when the lives of these little children are at stake.”

One mother was separated from her 6-year-old daughter after entering the country legally, attempting to escape the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Her daughter was ripped away from her and sent to Chicago for almost half a year. Another came into America illegally from Brazil and was detained for five months. She and her 14-year-old son only communicated a “handful of times” over the course of eight months, according to the suit.

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