The United States government may be facing massive numbers of lawsuits over the new policy of separating children from parents who are arrested by U.S. Border Patrol. This is because not only may the act of separation give rise to legal liability, but there may be additional liability if the parents are not reunited with their children on a timely basis.
On Monday Buzzfeed reported that once arrested adult migrants have completed their sentences for illegal entry, the U.S. government has no way to ensure that they are reunited with their children.
According to Buzzfeed:
“Two months after the Trump administration began separating children from their parents along the US-Mexico border, immigration authorities cannot say what procedures exist to reunite children with their parents after the parents’ illegal-entry cases have been resolved but their immigration case is still pending.”
In March, we reported on a new lawsuit that had been filed by detained immigrants separated from their children:
“Migrants separated from their children after they were detained for illegally entering the United States have filed a class action lawsuit claiming there are “hundreds” of parents in the same situation, and that the Trump administration is violating their due process rights. The lawsuit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and filed in U.S. District Court in southern California.”
In that case a woman from Brazil was prosecuted on a misdemeanor charge of entering the country illegally and served a 25-day sentence in jail, while her 14-year-old son was sent to a facility in Chicago. After serving her sentence she was transferred to immigration detention in Texas and had still not been able to reunite with her son.
It is clear that there is the potential for massive legal exposure here. The Buzzfeed report shows that U.S. immigration and law enforcement officials do NOT HAVE ANY IDEA how, when or if parents will actually be reunited with their children. There can be very long delays while the parents are waiting for an immigration judge to make a decision on their immigration case.
A spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Danielle Bennett, admitted there was no government policy or program for bringing children back to their parents.
“The logistics of the reunification are made on a case-by-case basis,” Bennett said. She also said that ICE has no information on the number of children who had actually been reunited with their parents, or if any had. “We don’t know of any successful reunifications,” she said.
The ACLU case for the Brazilian woman in California has not been resolved, but there is reason to believe that there will be more lawsuits filed and there is a good chance they will be successful if parents are not able to be reunited with their parents.
It appears that Stormy Daniels‘ attorney Michael Avenatti is now turning his attention to what he has called “Trump’s draconian policy” by offering his legal services to represent the aggrieved parents.
On Monday, Avenatti posted on Twitter:
“We are already mobilizing resources on the ground for this fight. By day’s end, we expect to have at least 20 detained mothers and children as clients. If anyone knows of a parent that has their child taken from them at the border and not returned, please have them contact me as I am entering this fight.”
Given Avenatti’s track record of success, not only in court but in swaying public opinion in his favor, it appears that this issue will not be going away any time soon, and there will be more bad legal news for the Trump administration for a long time in the future.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.