COVID-19 Special Coverage
17 states file lawsuit against Trump administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy
17 states file lawsuit against Trump administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy

A coalition of 17 states and the District of Columbia have filed a lawsuit [complain, PDF] against the Trump administration over its policy to separate immigrant children from their families and refusal to allow asylum applicants entry along Southwestern border ports.

The complaint describes reports of families who have sought asylum only to be unlawfully refused at the border on the pretext that “the United States is ‘full’ or no longer accepting asylum seekers.” By doing so, the complaint alleges that in addition to exacerbating the trauma already suffered by those seeking asylum, turning away immigrant families increases illegal entry attempts and violations. Further, the complaint calls attention to emerging reports that suggest immigration officials are using detained children as leverage to coerce their parents to withdraw their asylum claims.

According to the complaint, more than 2,000 children have been separated from their families. Oftentimes, children and infants are taken without warning or a chance to say goodbye, and no information is provided on how and when families can reunite. The complaint describes “makeshift detention facilities” where children are held and monitored by staff who are “sometimes told not to comfort” the children.

The states argue that “[n]o law or court decision requires such separation” and that the “[d]efendants have adopted the policy as part of their ‘zero tolerance’ or ‘100 percent prosecution approach’ to individuals who enter the country unlawfully, irrespective of circumstances, and then to use such misdemeanor criminal charges to detain parents indefinitely in federal facilities that cannot accommodate families.” Additionally, the complaint states that the executive order signed last week [JURIST report] by President Donald Trump offers “illusory relief” as the order does require an end to the separation of families and instead “implicitly recognizes the policy will continue.” In addition to asking the court to bar the federal government from denying applicants for asylum and from forcibly separating families, the complaint calls for the administration to “expeditiously reunite all children with parents from whom they have been separated.”