Despite the fact that President Trump signed an executive order that will walk back the rather inhumane practice of separating migrant children from their parents as they try and cross the border into the US, with 2,000 migrant children still in the custody of the US government, it’s becoming increasingly unclear how exactly the reunification process is supposed to play out. But, on Tuesday a federal judge in San Diego ruled that immigration officials have 30 days to reunite all children under five-years-old with their parents.
Judge Dana M. Sabraw of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, who was appointed by George W. Bush in 2006, has also ruled that parents must be allowed to speak on the phone with their children in the next 10 days. This makes things more complicated for the Trump administration, which claims that the executive order to end the separations solved the whole problem. But, thanks to Sabraw’s ruling, the administration now has to solve the problem quickly, rather than on an indeterminate timeline.
Sabraw has successfully argued that holding onto the kids is both untenable and wrong, namely because the separation process outlined by the Justice Department is half cooked and far from the “measured and ordered governance, which is central to the concept of due process enshrined in our Constitution.” Beyond that Sabraw called the whole ordeal “a chaotic circumstance of the Government’s own making.”
“The unfortunate reality is that under the present system, migrant children are not accounted for with the same efficiency and accuracy as property,” Sabraw said.
Naturally, the Justice Department fired back at the ruling, saying that, given the ruling, Congress must now “act to give federal law enforcement the ability to simultaneously enforce the law and keep families together,” before adding that “Without this action by Congress, lawlessness at the border will continue, which will only lead to predictable results — more heroin and fentanyl pushed by Mexican cartels plaguing our communities, a surge in MS-13 gang members, and an increase in the number of human trafficking prosecutions.”
Sabraw’s ruling only pertains to the separation policy, so it is peculiar that the Justice Department thinks that immigration officials ever lacked the power to enforce the law, or that separating children from their parents bolstered their ability to effectively patrol the border. That notion seems particularly ridiculous given the record number of deportations that took place under the Obama administration. The ruling also states that children may only be separated from their parents if it’s deemed that the parent poses a threat to them, while also adding that no parent can be deported without their child.
Still, despite the ruling, no one can be sure if any of these kids being detained will or even can see their parents again. When the administration began the separation practice back in May, they had no intention of rolling it back, and thus had no reunification plan in place. Many migrants lack the proper documentation and it’ll be a huge undertaking filled with background checks and verification processes to reunite a lot of these kids with their parents.
While the ruling will undoubtedly create a logistical nightmare, the alternatives aren’t any better. For example, the adoption agency Bethany Christian Services currently has custody of 81 migrant children, most of which have had zero contact with their parents. What happens once those kids start getting adopted out and the vestiges of their old lives begin to vanish as the trauma of being an orphan sets in? Moreover, BCS charges $700 a night, so someone is literally turning a profit off of this separation, which is just, you know, evil? The longer the justice department sits on their hands, the more impossible the situation becomes to manage, and these kids and their families will continue paying the price for the US governments egregious lack of foresight and basic decency.