No pun­ish­ment for ad­min­is­tra­tion for miss­ing first re­union dead­line

Judge praises ef­fort but wants changes made

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - FRONT PAGE - Alan Gomez

A fed­eral judge did not rule Fri­day on whether to pun­ish the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion for miss­ing a court-or­dered dead­line to re­unite dozens of young chil­dren sep­a­rated from their par­ents, fo­cus­ing in­stead on push­ing the gov­ern­ment to en­sure the next round of re­uni­fi­ca­tions hap­pens prop­erly and on time.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw had or­dered the ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­unite all chil­dren un­der age 5 by Tues­day. The gov­ern­ment didn’t re­unite the 57 chil­dren in that group un­til Thurs­day morn­ing, prompt­ing ACLU lawyers to re­quest that the gov­ern­ment be forced to pay for men­tal health coun­sel­ing for the chil­dren as pun­ish­ment.

Sabraw didn’t ad­dress that re­quest in a hear­ing Fri­day, of­fer­ing only praise for the gov­ern­ment’s work thus far.

“There is sub­stan­tial com­pli­ance,” he said. “There is good faith be­ing demon­strated. There is a col­lab­o­ra­tive process that’s well un­der­way.”

The judge did make clear, how­ever, that changes have to be made to make sure that all other mi­nors — nearly 3,000 of them — are re­united with their par­ents by the final dead­line of July 26. He asked the gov­ern­ment to pro­duce de­tailed lists of all mi­nors and par­ents, with in­for­ma­tion about their cur­rent lo­ca­tions, and hand them over to the ACLU.

He also or­dered the gov­ern­ment to no­tify the ACLU of all fu­ture re­uni­fi­ca­tions at least 12 hours be­fore they oc­cur. ACLU at­tor­ney Lee Gel­ernt said they had not re­ceived any pre-no­ti­fi­ca­tion of re­uni­fi­ca­tions for the first group of chil­dren, which he said is nec­es­sary so that

im­mi­gra­tion ad­vo­cacy groups and faith­based or­ga­ni­za­tions can be there to pro­vide what­ever sup­port fam­i­lies need.

That lack of no­ti­fi­ca­tion led to one case where a mother and her chil­dren, in­clud­ing a 6-month-old, were left stranded at a bus stop by Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment agents. Ac­cord­ing to Gel­ernt, the mother called an at­tor­ney and an im­mi­gra­tion ad­vo­cacy group for help, and fi­nally se­cured a bus ticket around mid­night on Tues­day.

De­part­ment of Jus­tice at­tor­ney Sarah Fabian fought back against the de­mand, ar­gu­ing that most re­uni­fi­ca­tions will start tak­ing place at a small num­ber of pro­cess­ing cen­ters. She said the hu­man­i­tar­ian groups can camp out at those lo­ca­tions and be ready to as­sist any­body who’s re­leased, and that re­quir­ing ad­vance no­ti­fi­ca­tion of ev­ery re­lease would rep­re­sent “a big ask.”

Gel­ernt bris­tled at the idea that an agency as large as the De­part­ment of Jus­tice couldn’t han­dle that task. “I do not think this is sit­u­a­tion where it’s a small law firm that has a fi­nite num­ber of as­so­ci­ates,” he said.

Sabraw agreed, and or­dered the gov­ern­ment to give at least 12 hours no­tice be­fore each re­uni­fi­ca­tion.

“So much of this is re­ally com­mon sense and com­mon cour­tesy,” he said. “Some­one is mak­ing de­ter­mi­na­tions as to who’s get­ting re­uni­fied, what time and where. That in­for­ma­tion can be com­mu­ni­cated. There shouldn’t be any­thing mys­te­ri­ous about it. It should be trans­par­ent and easy to do.”

The ACLU also wor­ried that the gov­ern­ment is pre­par­ing a sweep­ing series of de­por­ta­tions of par­ents over the week­end al­most im­me­di­ately af­ter they’re re­united with their chil­dren.

The De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity is of­fer­ing par­ents who are fac­ing final or­ders of re­moval two op­tions: They can be de­ported alone and leave their child in the U.S., or the par­ent can stay in de­ten­tion while their child is trans­ferred into the cus­tody of the De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices. Gel­ernt said par­ents needed more time to speak with pro bono at­tor­neys so they can make the best de­ci­sion for them­selves and their chil­dren.

“We would hope no re­movals hap­pen be­fore your honor has a chance to look at the sit­u­a­tion,” Gel­ernt said.

Fabian said she was not aware of any plans for mass de­por­ta­tions, and ar­gued that the judge could not halt all de­por­ta­tions.

Sabraw sim­ply urged at­tor­neys on both sides to no­tify him over the week­end if those de­por­ta­tions com­mence so he can hold an emer­gency hear­ing.

Dana Sabraw

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