National News

Court Orders Temporary Halt to Migrant Family Deportations

Posted July 16, 2018 3:58 p.m. EDT

A federal judge in California on Monday temporarily blocked the government from deporting families who were recently reunited after being separated by immigration authorities at the Southwest border.

Judge Dana M. Sabraw of the U.S. District Court in San Diego granted a request to allow families extra time to discuss the “momentous” and “exceedingly complex” decision of whether to leave the United States or continue to fight their immigration cases.

Normally, families would have days or weeks to consider such a decision, but the separation of families and the rush to reunite them in response to an earlier court order has rendered such discussions difficult for most.

The request for a stay, made by the American Civil Liberties Union, came after the government last week said that it was prepared to move quickly to carry out large numbers of reunifications in the coming weeks, facing a July 26 court deadline for returning all eligible separated children to their parents.

The ACLU and other immigrant advocates raised concerns that swift reunifications could also lead to swift deportations, which could limit due process. In its request to the judge, the ACLU pointed to “persistent and increasing rumors — which defendants have refused to deny — that mass deportations may be carried out imminently and immediately upon reunification.”

The government said in court Monday that its latest tally shows that 2,551 migrant children between the ages of 5 and 17 who were separated from their families are in government custody. Of those, 1,317 have been cleared for reunification with their parents by the Department of Health and Human Services, though as of Monday, only about 300 had approval for release from a second federal agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Jonathan White, a senior official at the Health and Human Services department, testified on behalf of the government that the parents of 71 children still have not been identified.

Sabraw said in court that the temporary stay on deportations must not delay family reunifications, and, where necessary, the government needs to make sure it can house parents together with their children. “If space is an issue, the government will have to make space,” he said.