Will Trump Administration Reunite Families Within 30 Days After Federal Court Ruling?

A federal judge has given the Trump administration 30 days to reunify the thousands of families separated by immigration agents at the U.S.-Mexico border and ruled that U.S. immigration agents can no longer separate children from their parents.

U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw issued the ruling late Tuesday evening, granting the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed over the family separation policy.

Protesters demand that thousands of children taken from their parents at the border under the Trump administration's “zero tolerance” practice be reunited with their parents, in San Diego, on June 23. A federal judge has given the Trump administration 30 days to reunite families separated at the border. DAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty

Sabraw ruled that the government must reunite parents separated from children younger than 5 years old within 14 days of the order, and children 5 years old and older within 30 days.

The federal judge also issued a ban on any involuntary deportation of parents without their children and ordered that the government put parents who have yet to speak to their children since their separation in "telephonic contact with their children" within 10 days.

More than 2,300 immigrant children were separated from their parents under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration practice, which was launched in May and ordered the prosecution of all adults caught crossing the border illegally, including parents with children. The parents were taken to federal jails, while their children were taken into the custody of the department of Health and Human Services.

After facing widespread backlash over the practice, which the United Nations branded a violation of children's rights, President Donald Trump signed an executive order rescinding the policy on June 20, but as many as 2,000 children have yet to be reunited with their families.

In her ruling, which was published online by the ACLU, Sabraw said the "facts set before the court portray reactive governance responses to address a chaotic circumstance of the government's own making" and warrant "the extraordinary remedy of classwide preliminary injunction."

"They belie measured and ordered governance, which is central to the concept of due process enshrined in our Constitution," the judge said, adding: "This is particularly so in the treatment of migrants, many of whom are asylum seekers, and small children."

These families thought they might never see each other again. Tonight's court ruling will change lives. #FamiliesBelongTogether pic.twitter.com/NXDc0pZBN3

— ACLU (@ACLU) June 27, 2018

The ACLU launched the lawsuit on behalf of a mother and her then-6-year-old daughter who had fled the Democratic Republic of Congo in fear of religious persecution, only to be separated from each other once they arrived in the U.S. last November.

The mother and child were reunited in March, but the ACLU has continued to pursue class-action claims on behalf of other families separated at the border.

In a statement, Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, called the ruling "an enormous victory for parents and children who thought they may never see each other again."

"Tears will be flowing in detention centers across the country when the families learn they will be reunited," he added.

Indeed, Sabraw's ruling—and 30-day deadline—could force the administration to speed up its efforts to reunify the families separated under its "zero tolerance" practice.

However, the administration still has the option of appealing the decision.

Before Tuesday's ruling, the Trump administration had already argued that the president's executive order for "keeping families together" had "largely" addressed the goals of the ACLU's lawsuit.

Sabraw rejected the government's bid to dismiss the case, saying the forced family separations practice could amount to a violation of constitutional due process, according to Reuters.

The federal judge said a status conference on the case is scheduled to be held on July 6 at 12 p.m.