Thousands of families separated at the U.S. southern border may have to wait as long as two years to be reunited, the Trump administration said in a court filing.
The filing comes nearly four months after government inspectors released a report revealing for the first time that the Trump administration had separated thousands more children from their families than previously estimated.
Armed with that report, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) successfully convinced US District Judge Dana Sabraw that these families should be included in a class action lawsuit the organization had filed against the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. At the time, a lawyer for the Department of Justice warned that this would “blow the case into some other galaxy of a task.”
According to the court filing late Friday, the government plans to complete a statistical analysis of 47,000 case files involving children referred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, to determine which children were likely to have been caught up in the Trump administration’s border separation policy. After that is completed, they will manually review the case files surfaced by the data analysis, a laborious and time-consuming process.
As CNN reported, Trump administration officials have identified a number of factors that will make the process of reunification an arduous and prolonged ordeal. These include the fact that the additional separated children had all been released from custody to live with sponsors, and that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency “didn’t start tracking separated families as a searchable data set in its records before April 19, 2018.”
The administration refuses to treat the family separation crisis it created with urgency. We strongly oppose any plan that gives the government up to two years to find kids.
The government swiftly gathered resources to tear families apart. It must do the same to fix the damage. https://t.co/ZkOoG9kLmX
— ACLU (@ACLU) April 6, 2019
The ACLU said the timeline proposed by the government is unacceptable.
“The administration refuses to treat the family separation crisis it created with urgency,” the organization wrote on Twitter. “We strongly oppose any plan that gives the government up to two years to find kids.”
“The government swiftly gathered resources to tear families apart. It must do the same to fix the damage,” it added.