Judge bans family separation at US border for 8 years

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A federal judge on Friday banned the separation of families at the border to deter immigration for eight years, preemptively blocking the resumption of a Trump-era lightning rod policy that the former president has not ruled out if voters return him to the White House home next year.

The separation of thousands of families “represents one of the most shameful chapters in our country’s history,” U.S. District Judge Dana Sobrau said moments before approving a settlement between the Justice Department and the families represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, ending a legal battle challenge nearly seven years after it was filed.

Sabraw, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, ordered an end to the separation in June 2018, six days after then-Pres. Donald Trump he stopped them alone amid strong international backlash. The judge also ordered the government to reunite the children with their parents within 30 days, sparking a mad battle because government databases were not connected. The children were scattered in shelters across the country, not knowing who their parents were or how to find them.

While reminiscing and congratulating lawyers on both sides, the judge recalled feeling horrified by the initial allegations and how the subsequent revelations made him increasingly horrified by the way the policy was implemented in 2017 and 2018. He read from an earlier order , in which he said the practice was “brutal, offensive and inconsistent with traditional notions of fair play and decency.”

Sabraw cited another court filing in 2018 that described how many parents were deported without knowing where their children were. “Just cruel,” he said.

The government and volunteers have yet to locate 68 children who were separated under the policy to determine if they are safe and reunited with family or loved ones, according to the ACLU. Sabrau said those children who are missing “have always been my biggest fear and concern.”

Under settlementThe type of “zero tolerance” policy under which the Trump administration has separated more than 5,000 children from parents who were arrested for entering the country illegally will be banned by December 2031.

Children can still be separated, but in limited circumstances, as has been the case for years. These include if the child is believed to be abused, if the parent has been convicted of a serious crime, or if there are doubts that the adult is the parent.

Families who have been separated may be eligible for other benefits — legal status for up to three years on humanitarian parole; amalgamation in the United States at government expense; one year housing; three years of consulting; legal aid in immigration court. But the settlement does not pay the families any money. In 2021, the Biden administration considered compensating the parents and children hundreds of thousands of dollars each, but talks have stalled.

As he seeks to return to the White House in next year’s election, Trump has been non-committal about whether he will try to reopen family separations. He defended the results in an interview with Univision last month, claiming without evidence that it “stopped people coming in hundreds of thousands.”

“When you hear you’re going to be separated from your family, you don’t come. When you think you’re going to come to the United States with your family, you do,” Trump said.

The Department of Homeland Security cited an earlier statement by Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Friday that the agreement reflected efforts to address “cruel and inhumane policies and our firm commitment to our nation’s most cherished values.”

ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt told reporters that the judge’s comments Friday “say it all. It was a tragic episode in the history of our country.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to Friday’s decision.

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