Humane Treatment of Migrant Children and Families

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Humane Treatment of Migrant Children and Families

San Diego, CA

Step 1: ACLU Lawsuit Filed

The ACLU accused the government in the California back in February of wrongfully separating a Congolese woman from her seven-year-old daughter, identified in court filings as "Ms. L" and "S.S." respectively, while they waited in detention for their asylum proceedings. In March, the ACLU asked the court to certify a nationwide class of parents in current or future custody of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security who have been separated from their detained children and have not been found to be unfit guardians. The group also asked the court at the same time for a preliminary classwide injunction preventing the federal government from keeping parents and their children apart in detention.

Step 2: Injunction Issued and Class Certified

On June 26, the court also granted the class’ motion for a preliminary injunction, barring the government from further separating families at the border in cases in which the parents are not found to be unfit. That order also instructed the government to reunify all class members with their minor children younger than 5 within 14 days, and all class members with their minor children older than 5 within 30 days.

Step 3 (Current Step): Reunification Deadline Missed

Although the government claims it has reunited all families except for those "impossible" for national security or other practical reasons, there is far more to be done. For those who were deported without their children, immigration officials have not even tried to contact them or facilitate their reunification by today. Their children are stranded in this country because of official actions, and yet those officials have apparently done nothing to facilitate their reunification.

The Problem

Between October 1, 2017 and May 31, 2018, at least 2,700 children have been split from their parents. 1,995 of them were separated over the last six weeks of that window — April 18 to May 31 — indicating that at present, an average of 45 children are being taken from their parents each day. The Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment does not permit the government to forcibly take a child from her mother, without justification or even a hearing.

Pinned Solution

Jun 18th, 2018
ACLU Action
Posted suggestion on Jun 18th, 2018
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Before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California:

Declare the separation of Ms. L. and her daughter unlawful;

Preliminarily and permanently enjoin ICE from continuing to separate Ms. L. and her daughter;

Order ICE either to release Ms. L. and her daughter, or to detain them together;

Enjoin defendants from removing Ms. L. from the country until she is reunited with her daughter, in the event that Ms. L. is not granted asylum and permitted to remain in the United States; and

Order all other relief that is just and proper.

Suggested Solutions


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American Academy of Pediatrics
Posted suggestion on Mar 13th, 2018
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We write to implore you to intervene with immigration enforcement and put an end to the separation of parents and children. As pediatricians, it is our view that the separation of children from their parents as a tool of law enforcement to deter immigration is inhumane and counterproductive. Children may not even know why they were brought to the U.S. if their parent understandably chose to protect them from the dangerous circumstances that forced them to flee their home country.

We ask you to put children first and not exacerbate their suffering by the additional trauma of being separated from their parents. As children develop, their brains change in response to environments and experiences. The AAP looks forward to hearing from you on our request for a meeting. In the meantime, we urge you to publicly reject the separation of parents and children at our nation’s borders. 

ACLU Action
Posted suggestion on Jun 26th, 2018
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The states of Washington, California, Pennsylvania and North Carolina request that the Court enter a judgment against the United States and award the following relief: 

a. Enjoin the United States from refusing to accept applications for asylum at a valid port of entry, and from criminally charging asylum applicants with illegal entry or re-entry if they present themselves at a valid port of entry; 

b. Declare the United States’ family separation Policy unauthorized by or contrary to the Constitution and laws of the United States; 

c. Enjoin the United States from enforcing the family separation Policy, including at all United States borders and ports of entry, pending further orders from this Court; 

d. Order the United States to expeditiously reunite all children with parents from whom they have been separated pursuant to the Policy, unless a court of competent jurisdiction has found them to be unfit.

Andy Dwyer
Posted suggestion on Jul 28th, 2018
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Official Replies


Donald Trump, President of the United States of America
Replied on June 15, 2017

the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!

Donald Trump, President of the United States of America
Replied on September 15, 2017

[t]he travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific-but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!

Jefferson Sessions, Attorney General
Replied on April 6, 2018

The situation at our Southwest Border is unacceptable. Congress has failed to pass effective legislation that serves the national interest—that closes dangerous loopholes and fully funds a wall along our southern border. As a result, a crisis has erupted at our Southwest Border that necessitates an escalated effort to prosecute those who choose to illegally cross our border.

Today’s zero-tolerance policy further directs each U.S. Attorney’s Office along the Southwest Border (i.e., Southern District of California, District of Arizona, District of New Mexico, Western District of Texas, and the Southern District of Texas) to adopt a policy to prosecute all Department of Homeland Security referrals of section 1325(a) violations, to the extent practicable.

Jefferson Sessions, Attorney General
Replied on May 7, 2018

The Department of Homeland Security is now referring 100 percent of illegal Southwest Border crossings to the Department of Justice for prosecution.  And the Department of Justice will take up those cases. I have put in place a “zero tolerance” policy for illegal entry on our Southwest border.  If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you.  It’s that simple. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. These actions are necessary.  And they are made even more necessary by the massive increases in illegal crossings in recent months.  This February saw 55 percent more border apprehensions than last February.  This March saw triple the number from last March.  April saw triple the number last April. 

The trends are clear: this must end. Donald Trump ran for office on that idea.  I believe that is a big reason why he won. He is on fire about this. This entire government knows it.  We have to have limits.  And Congress has already set them. 

And if you want to change our laws, then pass a bill in Congress.  Persuade your fellow citizens to your point of view.  

Make no mistake, the objections, the lawsuits, the sanctuary jurisdictions are often the product of a radical open border philosophy. They oppose all enforcement. And so this Department, under President Trump’s leadership, is enforcing the law without exception.

Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary
Replied on June 17, 2018

This misreporting by Members, press & advocacy groups must stop. It is irresponsible and unproductive. As I have said many times before, if you are seeking asylum for your family, there is no reason to break the law and illegally cross between ports of entry.

Jefferson Sessions, Attorney General
Replied on June 18, 2018

It's a real exaggeration. In Nazi Germany, they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country but this is a serious matter.

Donald Trump, President of the United States of America
Replied on June 20, 2018

It is unfortunate that Congress’s failure to act and court orders have put the Administration in the position of separating alien families to effectively enforce the law.

The Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary), shall, to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations, maintain custody of alien families during the pendency of any criminal improper entry or immigration proceedings involving their members.The Secretary of Defense shall take all legally available measures to provide to the Secretary, upon request, any existing facilities available for the housing and care of alien families, and shall construct such facilities if necessary and consistent with law.  

The Attorney General shall promptly file a request with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to modify the Settlement Agreement in Flores v. Sessions, CV 85-4544 (“Flores settlement”), in a manner that would permit the Secretary, under present resource constraints, to detain alien families together throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings for improper entry or any removal or other immigration proceedings. The Attorney General shall, to the extent practicable, prioritize the adjudication of cases involving detained families. 

Dana Sabraw, District Court Judge
Replied on July 17, 2018

The motion for an emergency TRO pending a ruling on their motion to stay is granted. On the underlying motion to stay, the United States shall file their opposition brief on or before July 23, 2018, at 9:00 a.m., Pacific Time. After hearing from Commander White, the Court is inclined to agree with the United States that providing Plaintiffs with notice of reunifications pursuant to the “initial cleared list” is sufficient.

Chad Readler, Acting Assistant Attorney General
Replied on July 17, 2018

We ask this Court to permit family detention during immigration proceedings. This Court should provide limited emergency relief in two respects. First, the Court should provide a limited exemption from its construction of the Flores Settlement Agreement’s release provisions so that ICE may detain alien minors who have arrived with their parent or legal guardian together in ICE family residential facilities. Second, the Court should determine that the Agreement’s state licensure requirement does not apply to ICE family residential facilities. These changes are justified by several material changes in circumstances—chief among them the ongoing and worsening influx of families unlawfully entering the United States at the southwest border.

Dolly Gee, District Court Judge
Replied on July 17, 2018

Absolutely nothing prevents the United States from reconsidering their current blanket policy of family detention and reinstating prosecutorial discretion. The United States have known for years that there is “no state licensing readily available for facilities that house both adults and children.” Yet, the United States have not shown that they made any efforts to resolve this issue since July 2015, let alone 1997, nor have they demonstrated that any such attempt would be futile. To the contrary, certain local governments charged with enforcing state child welfare laws have indicated their “strong interest . . . in the continued licensed regulation of the United States’ child welfare programs.”  

It is apparent that the United States’ Application is a cynical attempt, on an ex parte basis, to shift responsibility to the Judiciary for over 20 years of Congressional inaction and ill-considered Executive action that have led to the current stalemate.

Supporting Info

American Academy of Pediatrics



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