Judge prohibits separation of migrant families at the US border

a federal judge prohibited the separation of families of migrants at the United States border for deterrent purposes for eight years, blocking preventively reestablishing a policy implemented during the presidency of Donald Trump that the former president has not ruled out if he returns to the White House next year.

The separation of thousands of families “represents one of the most shameful chapters in the history of our country,” said Judge Dana Sabraw moments before approving an agreement between the Department of Justice and the migrant families represented by the American Liberties Union. Civil Rights (ACLU) that put an end to the process that began almost seven years ago.

Sabraw, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush, ordered an end to family separations in June 2018, six days after then-President Trump suspended them on his own amid intense international disapproval.

The judge also ordered the government to reunite the children with their parents within 30 days, which set off a rush because the government databases were not linked. The children had been sent to shelters across the country who didn’t know who their parents were or how to find them.

As he reminisced and congratulated attorneys on both sides, the judge recounted the sense of horror at the initial allegations and how subsequent revelations left him increasingly dismayed by how the policy was implemented in 2017 and 2018. He read from an earlier order in which noted that the practice was “brutal, offensive and does not comply with traditional notions of fair play and decency.”

Sabraw referenced another court document from 2018 that described how many parents were deported without knowing where their children were. “Just cruel,” she said.

The government and volunteers still 68 children who were separated under this policy have not been located to determine if they are safe and reunited with family or loved ones, according to the ACLU. Sabraw noted that his “greatest fear and concern” were those missing children.

Trump pushed to separate children from their families

Under the agreement, policies similar to that of “zero tolerance,” under which the Trump administration separated more than 5,000 children from their parents who were arrested for entering the country illegally, they would be prohibited until December 2031.

Children could still be separated from their parents, but under limited circumstances, as has been the case for years. Among those circumstances is if the child is believed to be a victim of abuse, if the parent is convicted of serious crimes, or if there is doubt that the adult is the parent of the child.

Families who were separated could receive other benefits, such as: regularized immigration status for up to three years with humanitarian parole, reunification in the United States at government expense, one year of housing, three years of family counseling and legal aid in immigration courts. But the agreement does not give money to the families. In 2021, the administration of current President Joe Biden considered compensating parents and children with hundreds of thousands of dollars each, but negotiations stalled.

As he seeks to return to the White House in next year’s presidential election, Trump has not commented on whether he would try to resume family separations. He defended the results of the policy in an interview with the Univision network last month, stating without offering evidence that it “prevented the arrival of hundreds of thousands of people.”

“When you find out that you are going to be separated from your family, you don’t come. “When you think you are going to come to the United States with your family, you come,” Trump said.

The Department of Homeland Security on Friday cited an earlier statement issued by Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that the agreement reflects efforts to confront “a cruel and inhumane policy and our steadfast adherence to our nation’s most cherished values.”

ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt told reporters that the judge’s comments on Friday “said it all. “This was a tragic episode in the history of our country.”

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to Friday’s ruling.