Federal judge orders reunification of separated immigrant families

Federal judge orders reunification of separated immigrant families

Judge Dana Sabraw of the US District Court for the Southern District of California [official website] issued a preliminary injunction [order, PDF] Tuesday against US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) [official website] practice of separating detained immigrant families.

The court found “the extraordinary measure of a class-wide injunction warranted” since “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.”

According to Judge Sabraw, the injunction will uphold “[immigrants’] rights to family integrity and association while their immigration proceedings are underway.” He also noted that “the relationship between parent and child[] is constitutionally protected and well established.”

The order applies to all immigrant families, unless “the parent is unfit or presents a danger to the child.” The US government is barred from continuing to detaining and separating migrant families, and if detained parents are released their minor child or children must also be released. The court also gave the government a 14 day deadline for reunifying families with children under the age of five, and 30 days for minor children over five.

Additionally, the injunction requires the government to “immediately take all steps necessary to facilitate regular communication” between detained parents and children, and gave a 10 day deadline for establishing initial phone contact.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of an unnamed plaintiff by the ACLU [advocacy website]. Lee Gelernt, the ACLU’s head attorney in the case, called the order [Washington Post report] “an enormous victory for parents and children who thought they may never see each other again.”