SAN DIEGO — A federal judge in San Diego said Friday he is encouraged by the government’s plan to locate parents who were either deported or released into the United States after being separated from their children at the border as part of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration.
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said he was very impressed with the government’s plan to reunify removed parents, which will be headed up by key members of the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State and Department of Health and Human Services.
DOJ attorney Scott Stewart told the judge that federal officials have been in contact with 299 out of 386 parents who were removed from the country.
“That is a very, very encouraging number,” the judge said.
Sabraw told attorneys for the government and the American Civil Liberties Union that it was “very important” for the parties to continue to look for 26 removed parents who they have not been able to find.
“That is a very significant statistic,” the judge said.
Sabraw ordered the government to provide a number of updated lists by Wednesday, including a list of parents removed from the country with their children and a list of children who agreed to take voluntary departure to be reunited with their parents.
Last week, Sabraw said finding parents and reuniting them with their children was “100 percent the responsibility of the (Trump) administration.”
In June, the ACLU won a nationwide injunction in its class-action lawsuit requiring reunification of children under age 5 by July 10 and all children by July 26.
Even though the government missed both deadlines, Sabraw said he was pleased with the progress the government was making to reunify separated families.
The judge said he was pleased that the ACLU has formed a steering committee to coordinate the location and reunification of class members who have been deported or released into the interior of the United States.
The judge’s comments came two days after he upheld a previous order barring the government from deporting recently reunited parents and children who were separated at the border.
Sabraw, considering a request for a temporary restraining order in a case transferred from the District of Columbia, said Wednesday that an order he issued three weeks ago prohibiting the government from removing reunified families from the United States before they’ve had a chance to discuss their immigration status is still in effect for both cases.
Plaintiffs in the case of M.M.M. v. Sessions received assurances from the judge that the order halting deportations applies to both parents and their children who may be seeking asylum hearings.
Another status conference on the San Diego case is set for next Friday.