The Department of Justice told a federal judge Tuesday that it may have mistakenly separated a father and toddler who could both be US citizens for as long as a year, in the process of enforcing the Trump administration zero-tolerance immigration policy.
The American Civil Liberties Union called the revelation “Horrific” and blamed the administration’s poor execution of the practice of family separations.
On 26 June, in a suit filed by the ACLU against the government over the separation of families at the southern border, federal judge Dana Sabraw granted a preliminary injunction requiring the reunification of children under the age of five by 10 July.
In Tuesday’s hearing, Judge Sabraw said that the families were improperly separated and that he would not extend the deadline, meaning that the government is technically in violation of the court order as of Tuesday night.
The complications the government has run into complying with Sabraw’s order foretell a troubled road ahead. Children under five represent just 5% of the 2,000 to 3,000 – the government has admitted it does not have an exact figure – who have been separated from their parents in recent months.
The Legal Aid Society in New York said it is representing at least two of the separated children under five.
After Trump signed an executive order ending his administration’s family separation policy in June, agencies had planned to detain families and children together until the parents’ immigration proceedings were complete, a process that can take months.