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A Scathing Rebuke and the Way Forward to End the Family Separation Crisis

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Court Orders Families to be Reunited; Here’s How it Should be Done

Below are a our key takeaways following the injunction issued by U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw enjoining the Trump administration’s family separation policy and requiring the government to reunify children under 5 years old with parents within 14 days and all other children within 30 days.

The judge’s rebuke is scathing.

Judge Sabraw, a George H.W. Bush appointee, said the following: “The unfortunate reality is that under the present system, migrant children are not accounted for with the same efficiency and accuracy as property.” Judge Sabraw also asserted that “the separations at issue have been agonizing for the parents” and that “irreparable injury” would result from the continued practice of separations; and assessed that it was “startling” that there “was no reunification plan in place.” As Greg Sargent captured in the Washington Post, “What’s remarkable about this ruling is how scathing a rebuke of the Trump administration’s cruelty, inhumanity and incompetence it delivers.”

We don’t trust the administration.

The Trump administration created the family separation crisis and has been dragging their feet in resolving it. More than 2,000 children who have been ripped from the arms of their parents are being held in federal custody. While the Trump administration mobilized to separate families, they are doing practically nothing to reunite them. As Lee Gelernt of the ACLU stated, “It was clear the administration had no plan to reunify these children, so the Court set hard deadlines to force the government to mobilize its resources and finally prioritize getting these children back to their parents.” Let’s be clear: we will need sustained pressure to ensure that the swift reunification of families.

Families should be reunited in freedom.

Republicans are pushing a host of unacceptable and ineffective ideas that would fail to end the moral crisis at hand. Trump and the GOP want to replace cages for kids with cages for kids and their parents. There’s a better way one that combines fairness, compliance and cost-effectiveness. Families should be released to loved ones and sponsors and enrolled in community supervision programs. For example, a case management program was 99% effective at making sure applicants show for their hearings before the Trump administration ended it. There are other alternatives to detention that are cost-effective, make sure asylum-seekers find attorneys and prepare for their day in court, and ensure that applicants show up and follow through with their hearings (see here for a detailed summary prepared by DHS Watch).

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

We are in the midst of a moral scandal of historic proportions. The public is outraged and the courts have intervened. It’s time for the federal government to begin, in earnest, unwinding the cruel and cynical policies that have separated families, traumatized kids and tortured parents. The way forward is to ensure families are together in freedom, those fleeing violence have a chance at a fair hearing, and the system ensures compliance. That is the humane, smart and cost-effective path forward.