SAN DIEGO -- A federal judge in San Diego Friday took under submission a request by the American Civil Liberties Union for a restraining order preventing the government from immediately deporting newly reunified families who were separated at the border under the Trump administration's crackdown on illegal immigration.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw issued an order temporarily blocking deportations of families who had been reunited. The ACLU, however, is requesting a new order imposing a seven-day delay on deportations of reunited families so they can have time to consider their legal options -- such as whether they want to depart the United States together as a family or if they want to leave their children behind in hopes they'll be granted asylum.
Government attorneys claim a further seven-day delay is "unwarranted," saying families have had plenty of time to consider their options while they have been detained.
Those families "have no entitlement to such a waiting period, and no entitlement to be re-separated at all," according to federal government court papers filed this week.
In court Friday, Sabraw noted that his previous order barring deportations of reunited families has been in place for 10 days, giving reunited families plenty of time to make decisions on who might be deported and who might be staying in the United States to fight their case. The judge said he expects to issue a ruling on the ACLU's latest restraining-order request this weekend.
Sabraw applauded the government for carrying out a plan to reunite 1,820 children separated from their parents at the border.
"Everyone's been reunified now, of the eligible group," the judge said, noting the focus now shifts to parents who were deported without their children and parents who were released in the United States and now cannot be located.
Government attorneys claimed in court papers that as of Thursday afternoon, 1,442 children had been physically returned to their parents, while another 378 were discharged into "other appropriate circumstances."
An estimated 711 children, however, remain in federal custody, with the parents of 431 of them having already been deported. According to the court papers, the parents of 120 of the remaining children waived reunification. The rest have been otherwise deemed ineligible for reunification, possibly because their parents have criminal records or their parents can't be found.
Thursday was the deadline set by Sabraw for reunifying separated immigrant families.
ACLU national attorney Lee Gelernt said Friday that the 120 parents who signed a form waiving reunification with their child didn't understand what they were signing and should be given more time to talk about it with their loved ones.