Judge Dana Sabraw has previously called the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy of separating families at the Mexico-US border “brutal” and “offensive.”
Judge Dana Sabraw of the Southern District of California strongly requested during a Friday hearing that lawyers representing the US government provide an official declaration explaining why data on missing separated parents that includes significant information—such as phone numbers and addresses—was not disclosed at an earlier date.
She has previously called the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy of separating families at the Mexico-US border “brutal” and “offensive.” “[It] ‘shocks the conscience’ and violates [immigrants’] constitutional right to family integrity,” Sabraw stated as early as June.
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The new data, which comes from the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), was shared with a steering committee appointed by the judge. The committee is made up of lawyers and nonprofit organizations in charge of locating the parents.
Explaining the reason for the holdup in providing the potentially helpful information, the government’s lawyers said that because EOIR is not involved in the search for the missing parents, the delay was not intentional. According to their report, at some point during a “brainstorming” session, government officials realized the data could be useful.
The government, however, insists the delay was not intentional. “We don’t believe that this was a neglectful or a nefarious attempt,” stated Sarah Fabian, a lawyer for the government.
According to the status report, the parents of 628 children have not yet been located by the steering committee. Of those, 333 are believed to have been deported, while the parents of approximately 295 children are believed to be in the US. The information could help locate some of the parents who have still not been found after being separated from their children at the southern US border between 2017 and 2018.
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At the Friday hearing, Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, called the situation “outrageous,” as he strongly urged the government to continue searching for more data.
President-elect Joe Biden has promised that on day one of his administration he will appoint a task force to help locate the remaining parents and reunite them with their children.