U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw has ruled that potentially thousands of migrant families who were separated at the southern border under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy may now be added to an existing class-action lawsuit.
Last year Sabraw ordered the administration to reunite over 2,800 migrant children who were separated from their families at the border. That order applied to those separated after June 26, 2018.
But Sabraw’s new court order holds that his decision applies to those detained much earlier — as early as July 1, 2017.
The surprising ruling from Sabraw came after he became aware of reports that families were separated long before the “zero tolerance” policy was officially announced in April of last year by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
In announcing his decision, Sabraw wrote:
“The hallmark of a civilized society is measured by how it treats its people and those within its borders. That Defendants may have to change course and undertake additional effort to address these issues does not render modification of the class definition unfair; it only serves to underscore the unquestionable importance of the effort and why it is necessary (and worthwhile).”
The court’s decision will allow thousands more families to join the class-action lawsuit. In addition, Sabraw scheduled a hearing for later this month in which he will determine if the Trump administration must identify the additional family members and reunite them all. He said:
“The Court has an obligation to resolve that question, especially for parents who may have been deported without their children, and although it may be burdensome, it clearly can be done.”
Otherwise, Sabraw wrote, parents may have been deported without their children, creating the “very real possibility of a permanently orphaned child” because of the “questionable” actions of government officials.
The ACLU has been leading the lawsuit and requested that the class of families included be expanded after the additional separations were revealed.
“The court made clear that potentially thousands of children’s lives are at stake and that the Trump administration cannot simply ignore the devastation it has caused,” ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said in a statement to media outlets.
This is a great victory for not just the ACLU, but also for migrants who have had their civil rights trampled on by the Trump administration. Trump’s immigration policy is based on cruelty and mistreatment of migrants, but this latest ruling shows that there are still people in the U.S. government who believe in justice and compassion.
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.