US government responsible for finding parents of separated children: judge

06 August, 2018, 01:52 | Author: Carlos George
  • Children

A federal judge Friday said President Donald Trump's administration was exclusively responsible for reuniting hundreds of children who remain separated from their parents after being split up at the U.S. -Mexico border, puncturing a government plan that put the onus on the American Civil Liberties Union. So far, only 13 parents have been located.

The administration has maintained that any parents deported without their children willingly left without them.

Sabraw, who was appointed by George W Bush in 2003, was blunt during a status conference on Friday with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorneys who sued for family reunification and lawyers for the Trump administration.

Officials believe that the parents of 400 of the children who remain separated have been deported.

That prompted the government to separate them from their children, due to a US law and a 1997 court settlement, known as the Flores Consent Decree, that limits the detention of children to no more than 20 days.

In an attempt to increase the number of parents and children that are reunited, the judge on Friday ordered the government to appoint a person to take charge of its efforts.

The ACLU has repeatedly said that it would assist with efforts to find the deported parents, but the group made clear in Thursday's filing that it expected the USA government to bear ultimate responsibility for locating them. "Plaintiff's counsel should use their considerable resources, and their network of law firms, NGOs, volunteers and others, together with the information that defendants have provided (or will soon provide), to establish contact with possible class members in foreign countries".

In the court documents, the government appears to shift the responsibility for reunifying the families onto the ACLU, also known as the plaintiffs in the case.

US District Judge John Bates in Washington DC first issued a ruling in April ordering the government to continue the programme, adding he would stay the decision for 90 days so it could make its case for why it should be ended.

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The ACLU and other rights groups have said they are doing all they can to reunite the families but are limited by the amount of information provided by the government, which separated the families.

Sabraw, a George W. Bush appointee who has a mild and straightforward manner on the bench, has not threatened the government with any sanctions.

The number of children whose parents are presumably still in the country, but whose whereabouts are unknown to the government, declined sharply in the past week - from 94 to 15, according the data, which covered through midday Wednesday.

In uncharacteristically blunt language, the judge said that it is "just unacceptable" that only 12 or 13 parents out of close to 500 parents who have been deported from the USA have been located thus far.

"The judge is refusing to let the government off the hook for the mess it made", said Lee Gelernt, national attorney for the ACLU.

Earlier last week, President Trump tweeted praise for Sabraw without naming him.

Trump administration officials faced intense criticism from Democrats over the migrant family separations during a Senate testimony Tuesday. "Thank you, and please look at the previous administrations record - not good!"

The ACLU said it believes the government has had phone numbers for numerous deported parents for a significant amount of time, asking why those numbers weren't either shared with it or used to contact the parents. The ACLU has asked that parents, once reunited with their children, have a week to decide whether they want to seek asylum.

The judge asked the government to designate one point person to oversee the process, and Stewart demurred, saying that's something the government "should look into".

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