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Feds, ACLU Disagree On How To Reunify Separated Families

Andrea Elena Castro, daughter of Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, holds a U.S. flag during a Rally For Our Children event on May 31 to protest the "zero tolerance" immigration policy that has led to the separation of families.
Eric Gay AP
Andrea Elena Castro, daughter of Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, holds a U.S. flag during a Rally For Our Children event on May 31 to protest the "zero tolerance" immigration policy that has led to the separation of families.
Feds, ACLU Disagree On How To Reunify Separated Families
Feds, ACLU Disagree On How To Reunify Separated Families GUEST: Bianca Bruno, reporter, Courthouse News

. Our top story on Midday edition Federal Judge Dana sobre in San Diego we'll hear from the government and the ACLU today in the ongoing legal proceeding about the separation of immigrant families at the border. The Trump administration submitted documents on Thursday outlining its plan to reunite more than 400 families where the parents have already been deported. And it seems that government agencies want to rely heavily on the work being done by the private nonprofit American Civil Liberties Union in locating the parents. The government itself deported. Joining me is Bianca Brunow reporter with Courthouse News. Bianca welcome back. Thank you. These court proceedings stem from a class action lawsuit filed by the ACLU here in San Diego. What are the reasons the government is putting so much of the responsibility for locating these parents on the ACLU. So yesterday there was a status update filed. There have been updates weekly in this case that was filed in February and the government yesterday basically said that the ACLU has a host of resources to help identify these families including you know work with nongovernment organizations with NGOs with lawyers doing pro bono work and that they're already sort of rallying the troops if you will to get the work done. And really they they are relying on them to kind of identify these families and get them in touch with their kids who are still in the U.S. so that the reunification process can start. And what does the ACL use position on this. So obviously they feel that since it was the government's practice that separated these families that the onus and the responsibility should be on them to reunite them. The government is willing to provide personal information to the ACLU such as phone numbers addresses where parents and kids were born what countries they're from if they speak indigenous languages that kind of thing to help foster some communication. But you know the ACLU is disappointed I think by the government's response. They really were vague yesterday in their filing with the court and did not provide a real detailed plan for how they're going to reunite these families. So the government attorneys are saying that they are working with the State Department and government officials in other countries to find deported parents. So what is the concern of the ACLU about all this. Most of the families who came to the border were seeking asylum and to involve the foreign governments where they're fleeing their home country is basically like putting a target on their back. You're informing them that they came to the U.S. and were deported back. And the State Department is basically asking them to get involved with helping to locate them. So safety is definitely a top concern. It's not quite clear how they're going to but which governments they involve them which ones they don't how many families have been reunited so far. So far 1300 just over 1300 kids have been reunited with their parents an Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody. Many of those families were released on parole into the community. But the breakdown of that wasn't provided yesterday. There's still 400 kids whose parents are deported though and there are over 500 who are still in the care of the Office for refugee resettlement whose parents are either ineligible to be reunited because of some criminal history or some other situation going on or because they're not in the country. Meanwhile Judge bra has yet to issue his ruling on whether reunited families can be immediately deported. What do we know about that court ruling is kind of in flux because there are other cases that have been filed across the country in relation to family separation. This week there was a case filed in Washington D.C. a class action on behalf of the children. So the one in San Diego is on behalf of the parents. But this other case basically argues that the kids are not being granted there are asylum rights that their immigration cases are not being properly handled. Is there any discussion about consolidating the cases with the one here in San Diego. So there is the one in Washington D.C. The judge is actually supposed to decide by the end of this week whether that case is going to be transferred here. There was another case filed in Washington state by multiple attorney generals including California's attorney general and I believe that case is also going to be transferred here civilly. San Diego's federal court is going to be sort of the definitive answer on how the family separation cases are handled. There is a status conference with attorneys on Judge sobre later this afternoon. What do you expect to come out of today's update. So I do expect the judge to push back a bit on what the government filed yesterday in terms of its plan or what you can really say as a non-plan. They want to rely mostly on the ACLU to reunite families. I think the judge is going to demand some more specifics from the government and perhaps set some deadlines. The ACLU also asked yesterday for when families are connected and we know the location of a parent and a child and they want to be reunited that that happens within seven days. The government has pushed back on that. So I imagine the judge will address that today also. I visit with Bianca Brunow reporter with Courthouse News. Bianca thank you. Thank you.

The Trump administration and the American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday revealed widely divergent plans on how to reunite hundreds of immigrant children with parents who have been deported since the families were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.

President Donald Trump's administration puts the onus on the ACLU, asking that the organization use its "considerable resources" to find parents in their home countries, predominantly Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

The U.S. Justice Department said in a court filing that the State Department has begun talks with foreign governments on how the administration may be able to aid the effort.


The ACLU, which sued on behalf of separated parents, called for the government to take "significant and prompt steps" to find the parents on its own.

"Plaintiffs have made clear that they will do whatever they can to help locate the deported parents, but emphasize that the government must bear the ultimate burden of finding the parents," the ACLU said in a filing, pinning blame for "the crisis" on the administration and arguing it has far more resources.

A decision on how to bridge the differences falls to U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, who has ordered that more than 2,500 children be reunited with their families. He was scheduled to speak with both sides in a conference call Friday.

As of Wednesday, 410 children whose parents were outside the country were in the custody of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.

The ACLU said it takes "a degree of detective work" to track down contact information for deported parents, some of whom may be hiding from persecutors.


The group said the government provided home-country addresses in U.S. immigration databases with no useful information for about 120 parents. Other addresses had limited use — for example, some had "calle sin nombre" ("street without a name") or six addresses connected to one Honduran child, all in the Mexican city of San Luis Potosi.

The proposals from both sides come a week after a court-imposed deadline to reunite more than 2,500 children who were separated from their families at the border.

The administration also asks that the ACLU consult each deported parent to determine if they wish to waive their right to be reunified with their child, a scenario that may occur if the parent wants the child to remain in the United States. The U.S. would work with foreign governments "to determine how best to complete reunifications."

The ACLU proposes that parents who want their children sent back home be reunited within a week and that those who want to return to the U.S. to pick up their kids be permitted under humanitarian parole, with round-trip transportation paid for by the government.

There are also differences about how to locate parents who were released in the U.S., but they appear less stark. The administration says it will meet with the ACLU to discuss what information it can provide, while the ACLU requests specific details — ranging from last known phone number and copies of birth certificates — as well as volunteers to help find the parents.

The government said last week that it had returned all 1,800-plus children to parents and sponsors who were "eligible" for reunification. But it said more than 700 adults were not eligible because they were in their home countries, have been released from immigration custody, had red flags for criminal records or other reasons, chose not to be reunited, or were still being reviewed.

On Wednesday, it said the number of reunified children neared 2,000 and nearly 600 remained separated, mostly because their parents.

Sabraw ordered the government to submit written updates every Thursday, indicating he plans to keep a close watch on the still-separated families. Each update will be followed by a telephone call the next day with both sides.

In late June, Sabraw set deadlines of July 10 to reunify dozens of children under 5 with their families and July 26 to reunify children 5 and older.