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By Julia Ainsley
WASHINGTON – The federal judge responsible for the reunification of separated migrant families on the southern border by the Trump administration said Thursday to government lawyers that it would be arbitrary to leave out the trial of separated children before the The entry into force of the President's "zero tolerance" policy. April 2018.
Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union lobbied Justice Dana Sabraw of the Southern District of California to order the government to potentially reunite thousands of separated children as part of a trial. pilot program starting in July 2017.
A report from the Inspector General of the Ministry of Health and Human Services, based on interviews with HHS employees, estimates that thousands of children were separated from their parents at the border a few months before the beginning of the "zero tolerance" policy of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. who sued all parents illegally entering the country while their children were waiting in separate custody.
As a result of this report, the ACLU asked Sabraw to include the parents of these children in the same group as those affected by zero tolerance, which he had ordered reunited last summer. Sabraw said he would continue to consider the ACLU motion, but seemed to be leaning in favor of its approval.
"It is important to recognize that we are talking about human beings," Sabraw told Scott Stewart, a lawyer with the Department of Justice.
Stewart argued that including in the trial separated parents from their children as early as July 2017 "radically changes the complexity of this case from the government's point of view".
"We tried to be a good partner," Stewart said. "It's very unfortunate to have done all this [and then] to have the task stolen wide open ".
Stewart suggested that parents whose children had been removed before zero tolerance should be present elsewhere or "informal".
"We're not saying that they can not be reunified, we're saying it's just not part of the class that the court has certified, it's not part of that case." there are people in this class who want to seek redress, there are courts, there are informal channels to do it, "Stewart said.
Justice Sabraw stated that the first step in his order, if issued, would be to account for all separated parents and children between July 2017 and April 2018, when zero tolerance would have come into effect. He said that he could consider other solutions, such as different deadlines, but that the main solution would be reunification.
Lee Gelernt, an ACLU lawyer, said his organization would establish a steering committee to make appeals and find the parents of separated children.
"We can not go back to these communities and tell them we will not make the effort," Gelernt said. "I suspect some parents want to get their children back without being able to do it."
Some parents who were separated under zero tolerance chose to be deported while their children stayed in the United States to apply for asylum. Both the government and the ACLU have recognized that some parents are separated before zero tolerance makes the same decision.