The American Civil Liberties Union accused the Trump administration Wednesday of seeking to immediately deport parents and their children — who were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border as part of the government’s zero tolerance policy — as soon as they have been reunited, according to a recent court filing.
The organization, which is representing the separated families in the class action lawsuit against the administration, called on U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw to temporarily halt deportations until parents “have had sufficient time to consult about what might be the most consequential decision of their lives.”
While the government is reluctant to provide more than 48 hours prior to deportation, the filing asks for a seven-day stay from the time parents are notified of a reunification until deportation, to ensure due process for the families.
“In their months of separation, these parents have not spoken to their children for more than several minutes on the phone; many if not most have never spoken to a lawyer,” the ACLU’s filing reads. “And yet within moments of seeing their kids for the first time, Defendents propose to put them on planes, with no meaningful opportunity to receive legal advice and make a considered family decision about whether their children should remain in the United States without them.”
According to the most recent government figures, the administration is on track to reunite most if not all “eligible” parents with their children by the court-mandated July 26 deadline. On Tuesday evening, the administration said it has reunited 1,012 parents with their kids between the ages of 5 and 17.
Of those roughly 1,000 reunifications so far, the administration couldn’t specify how many families were reunited and then deported. And of the 1,637 “eligible” parents, roughly 900 already have final orders of deportation.
The ACLU claims the government distributed election forms in a “coercive and misleading manner” and that “parents have signed forms they did not understand … Some parents with limited or no literacy were not told what they were signing. Still others thought they had signed papers stating that they wanted reunification.”
The filing includes numerous testimonials from parents that indicate the parents are not granted due process while in U.S. custody:
- Two fathers thought they were signing a form that would allow the government to release their children; one of these fathers burst into tears repeatedly out of fear for his son and said he had signed the form under enormous stress and confusion.
- One mother was told that signing a form would lead to her reunification with her son, and was surprised to learn that she had allegedly signed away her right to reunification.
“Given these circumstances,” the filing reads, “it should come as no surprise that numerous Class Members who are on Defendants’ list of parents who waived reunification in fact do want their kids back.”
According to a Department of Justice lawyer who spoke during a press briefing Tuesday evening, 127 parents have already waived their reunification rights. Lawyers say “numerous” parents now say they want their kids back. The ACLU is asking that the seven-day stay be extended to include all parents, including those who have waived their reunification rights.
Amanda Michelle Gomez contributed to this report.