San Diego Judge Dana Sabraw has thrown another wrench into the Trump administration's plans for tightening security at the US border by issuing a temporary halt to deportations of families that were separated under the administration's "zero tolerance" policy.
In his ruling, the judge argues that the families need some additional time to consider whether to pursue requests for asylum. It was made in response to a request from the ACLU, which said it was responding to "persistent and increasing rumors...that mass deportations may be carried out imminently and immediately upon reunification," according to the Associated Press.
Sabraw ruled last month that the Trump administration would have 30 days to reunite the youngest children detained under the policy with their parents. The administration just barely finished the reunifications before the deadline, though it said some children could not be reunited with their parents because they had been deported, or for some other reason. The government is now working to reunite some of the older minors with their families.
These same families now must be given at least a week to consult with their children and an advocate or counsel about their chances for asylum.
The American Civil Liberties Union had asked Judge Dana Sabraw to delay deportations a week after reunification. The ACLU said in a court filing that its request is a response to “persistent and increasing rumors … that mass deportations may be carried out imminently and immediately upon reunification.”
The ACLU said parents need a week after being reunified with their children to decide whether to pursue asylum.
The decision "cannot be made until parents not only have had time to fully discuss the ramifications with their children, but also to hear from the child’s advocate or counsel, who can explain to the parent the likelihood of the child ultimately prevailing in his or her own asylum case if left behind in the U.S. (as well as where the child is likely to end up living)," the ACLU says.
DOJ attorney Scott Stewart opposed the delay, but did not address the mass deportation rumors in court, according to the Associated Press. He added that he would respond later in writing. The judge gave the department until next Monday.
The Trump administration had recently taken steps to speed up its vetting procedures to help reunite families more quickly. But Sabraw said he had begun to have second thoughts about the government's motives for speeding up the reunification process, though he later praised Jonathan White of the Office of Refugee Resettlement who said that some of the older children had already been reunited with their families and that "it is our intent to reunify children promptly."
DOJ attorneys assured the judge that the children were being well cared for and offered to have him visit the facilities where they were being housed. But Sabraw argued that "no matter how nice the environment is, it's the act of separation from a parent, particularly with young children, that matters."
On Friday, Sabraw, who has been overseeing the government's reunification efforts, ordered the Trump administration to give legal advocates 12-hours notice of when and where immigrant families would be reunited, an attempt to make the process less chaotic.
Sabraw's latest order was likely intended to show the Trump administration that it can't rush to reunite families only to immediately deport them. Migrant families will now be entitled to spend some time in the US working on their asylum claims, regardless of how quickly parents are reunited with their children.