Judge rules Trump administration within authority to separate families at border

Jan. 15 (UPI) -- In a rare legal victory for the Trump administration, a federal judge ruled that it acted within its right to separate some 900 migrant children from their parents at the U.S. southern border.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw on Monday ruled against the American Civil Liberties Union who filed a lawsuit in July arguing that the Trump administration had separated 911 migrant children from their families based on minor criminal charges and "highly dubious" allegations of unfitness despite an injunction against the practice.


The ACLU argued that the separations were evidence that the Trump administration was continuing with its "zero tolerance policy," which permitted separating children from parents who entered the United States illegally.

Sabraw ordered the administration to reunite the 2,800 children separated from their families and put an injunction against the policy in June 2018.

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In his ruling Monday, Sabraw rejected the claim the Trump administration had returned to its family separation policy, stating less than 1 percent of family units that cross the border are subject to separations due to criminal record or other reasons.

Concerning the allegation that the reasons for separating the family units were "dubious" and "questionable," Sabraw said it is not up to the court to "second-guess those determinations."


"The factual circumstances under which these initial determination are made do not lend themselves to micromanagement by the Court," he wrote. "... Defendants must be allowed discretion to make these decisions based on the available information. Concerns about lack of fitness and danger to a child often overlap and include many scenarios that are difficult to assess under ideal circumstances, let along at the border."

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Sabraw did rule in ACLU's favor concerning family separations due to unverified familiar relations.

The ACLU said the administration separated 46 parents based on this determination, identifying two cases in which parents were reunited with their children following DNA testing.

Sabraw ruled the administration must first conduct a DNA test before separating an adult from a child based on parentage concerns. If the location did not possess the technology needed to perform the test, either the family must be moved together to a facility that did or swabs are to be taken from those concerned for testing.

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The ACLU said it is evaluating the decision to determine how best next to proceed, but applauded Sabraw's decision concerning DNA testing.

"The court strongly reaffirmed that the Trump administration bears the burden if it attempts to separate families based on an accusation that the adult is not the child's parent," ACLU's Lee Gelernt in a statement.


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