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Demonstrators in Chicago protested against the Trump administration's policy of separating children from their parents after families cross the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

As Judge Slams Family Separation as 'Brutal, Offensive' Conduct, Lawsuit Challenging Trump's Policy Advances

The Trump administration's forcible separation of parents and children at the southern border is "emblematic of the exercise of power without any reasonable justification," argued a federal judge

Julia Conley

Slamming the Trump administration's attempt to deter asylum seekers by separating immigrant children from their parents as "brutal," a federal judge declared Wednesday that the ACLU's lawsuit challenging the policy would be allowed to proceed.

"We are enormously pleased with the ruling about an issue that has galvanized so many and outraged the country," Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrant Rights Project, told the New York Times. "The judge left no doubt that he viewed the practice of separating young children from their parents as inhumane."

Judge Dana Sabraw's ruling follows nationwide protests this week against President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions' policy of criminally prosecuting all undocumented immigrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border, and separating parents from their children after the parents are apprehended by authorities.

Sabraw wrote in his opinion that the ACLU's arguments against the policy "sufficiently describe government conduct that arbitrarily tears at the sacred bond between parent and child, and is emblematic of the exercise of power without any reasonable justification."

The forcible separation of parents and children violates the families' constitutional right to due process, the ACLU argued in its suit. In its motion to dismiss the lawsuit, the Trump administration claimed that asylum seekers have no constitutional right to be kept together—an argument Sabraw rejected.

"Such conduct...is brutal, offensive, and fails to comport with traditional notions of fair play and decency," the judge wrote.

Plaintiffs represented by the ACLU in the case include a Congolese woman who was held in a detention center in Southern California after applying for asylum, while her seven-year-old daughter was taken to a shelter in Chicago for four months before they were reunited.

Another plaintiff, an asylum seeker from Honduras, was separated from her 18-month-old child for more than two months.

Immigrant rights advocates expressed hope on Thursday that the judge's ruling was a step toward a possible injunction halting the Trump administration's policy.

The ACLU's motion requesting a nationwide injunction is pending.


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