Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

KPBS Midday Edition

San Diego Judge Temporarily Halts Deportations Of Reunified Families

A child from Honduras is brought to the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Grand Rapids, Mich., Tuesday, July 10, 2018.
Associated Press
A child from Honduras is brought to the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Grand Rapids, Mich., Tuesday, July 10, 2018.
San Diego Judge Temporarily Halts Deportations Of Reunified Families
Judge Halts Deportations Of Reunited Families GUEST: John Sepulvado, host, The California Report

A federal judge has temporarily halted deportations of reunited migrant families. San Diego federal Judge Davis Abrar says he's ordering a temporary halt to deportations of families reunited after being separated by the Trump administrations zero tolerance policy. Those deportations will be delayed for at least a week until the government can respond to a motion from the ACLU. John Salvado host of The California Report has been covering the hearing this morning and he joins me now. John welcome. Hi Maureen. Now what's the issue behind this halt. Why did the ACLU ask for deportations to be temporarily stopped for these families. Well the short answer to that is that there's already evidence the federal government is deporting is deporting immigrants who have been reunified. But this is something that the ACLU has been pushing for for quite some time now. Essentially the ACLU has been arguing that immigrants are not being told what their rights are. They're saying that ice and other border patrol agents are essentially pressuring many immigrants to who are being detained to sign pieces of paper saying if you want to see your children again you need to agree to essentially give up your right for any type of trial. And now there's evidence that's starting to come out both in the reports that have followed the family separation issue as well as things that are being presented to the court. We had quite a bit of testimony from several people who are immigrant rights activists and they essentially are saying that they are finding that their clients are being pressured. They're finding that their clients are being transferred. They're finding that their clients aren't being able to aren't being allowed to essentially talk to their attorneys and so their rights are at jeopardy. And that needs to stop. So the judge said while he is looking to essentially hold a hearing on whether all this is true he wants the deportations to stop and they look like they're about to stop for a week or so. Now the judge said late Friday that he was having second thoughts about whether the government was acting in good faith. What was he referring to. Well the government has you know and in many ways done everything that the judge has asked very slowly but has has done it and has been moving that way and then all of a sudden on Friday. You know you had health and human services which oversees the facilities where these separated children are at. You had someone offer essentially testimony in written form to the court basically saying they're going to do their own thing and I'm summing it up marine but it was essentially a large snub to the court saying We hear you judge but we're still going to do this. This other practice that you told us not to do and Judge Sobhraj basically had it. Now this is a very polite man. This is somebody who was appointed by George W. Bush. He is kind of in that old guard I guess you could say now of Republicans who are very deferential to the government somebody who is really concerned about having his cases appealed doesn't want doesn't want appeals to happen but he tore into the government in his own polite way and especially during the court hearing today he made it very clear that he did not like the government's response that it wasn't acceptable that this wasn't a normal case where normal regulations apply that this is something very very unique and that he wants to see his orders be followed and that's what he demanded of the government today and of course the government responded by saying that you know that was a mistake and that this is the way we're going to do it. Now the Trump administration has said it has to be unified all eligible children under five. What do we know about the status of for unifying the older children with their parents. Well we know that some of these reunifications have already happened. In fact some were happening in Los Angeles International Airport over the weekend. I spoke to attorneys immigration attorneys in Texas Nevada and Arizona over the weekend and they said that some of their clients have seen their children for the first time. Many of the kids are either being held in Texas Georgia or New York so getting them there getting them to where the parents are getting the parents to them has has proven to be rather difficult. But other than that we still don't have any type of large view of how the government is doing. In fact right now there's a lot of questions about whether the government has actually deported many of the parents that's another reason why the judge has halted deportations for the time being because many of these parents were already being deported back to countries like Guatemala Nicaragua before they even got their children. And we don't have an idea of the size of this group of people but they're already starting to be rumblings from immigration attorneys that it is going to be a large number of people in the hundreds. I've been speaking with John Sepúlveda host of The California Report. Thank you John. Thank you. Maureen.

A federal judge on Monday ordered a temporary halt to any deportations of immigrant families who were reunited after being separated by the Trump administration at the border.

San Diego-based U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw imposed a delay of at least a week after a request from the American Civil Liberties Union, which cited "persistent and increasing rumors ... that mass deportations may be carried out imminently and immediately upon reunification."

Justice Department attorney Scott Stewart opposed the delay but did not address the rumors in court. He said he would respond later in writing. The judge gave the department until next Monday.


Late last month, Sabraw ordered the government to reunite thousands of children and parents who were forcibly separated in recent months under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy toward those who illegally cross into the U.S. He set a deadline of July 10 for roughly 100 children under age 5 and gave the government until July 26 to reunite more than 2,500 older youngsters.

The Trump administration reunited about half the under-5 children by last week, saying that in many of the remaining cases, the adults had criminal records or were determined not to be the youngsters' parents at all.

In asking for a delay in deportations, 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 said.

RELATED: US Judge Criticizes Plan To Reunify Families Split At Border


Late Friday, the judge said he was having second thoughts about whether the government was acting in good faith, after the Trump administration warned that speeding up the reunification process by dropping DNA testing could endanger children.

But on Monday, Jonathan White of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, who is overseeing the government's effort, assured the judge that some reunifications of older children have already occurred, and "it is our intent to reunify children promptly." He went into detail on how the process was working.

Sabraw praised White, saying his testimony on the reunification plan gave him great comfort. "What is in place is a great start to making a large number of reunifications happen very, very quickly," the judge said.

Justice Department attorneys also assured Sabraw the children were well cared for, offering him a visit to a shelter if he wanted.

The judge replied that the main concern wasn't whether the children were well cared for.

"Obviously the concern that has been at issue has been the passage of time," he said. "No matter how nice the environment is, it's the act of separation from a parent, particularly with young children, that matters."

Sabraw has scheduled three more hearings over the next two weeks to ensure compliance with his order.