Wednesday, June 27, 2018
District Judge Enjoins Administration's Child-Parent Separation Policy
In an opinion and order in Ms. L. v. United States Immigration and Enforcement (ICE), United States District Judge Dana Sabraw has found that the current Administration policies regarding separation of parents and children and reunification likely violate due process meriting a preliminary injunction.
Recall that in early June, Judge Sabraw denied a motion to dismiss in the same case finding that that there was sufficient claim of a due process violation, applying the "shocks the conscience" test.
This opinion reasserts that conclusion:
This practice of separating class members from their minor children, and failing to reunify class members with those children, without any showing the parent is unfit or presents a danger to the child is sufficient to find Plaintiffs have a likelihood of success on their due process claim. When combined with the manner in which that practice is being implemented, e.g., the lack of any effective procedures or protocols for notifying the parents about their childrens’ whereabouts or ensuring communication between the parents and children, and the use of the children as tools in the parents’ criminal and immigration proceedings, a finding of likelihood of success is assured. A practice of this sort implemented in this way is likely to be “so egregious, so outrageous, that it may fairly be said to shock the contemporary conscience,” interferes with rights “‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty[,]’” Rochin v. Cal., 342 U.S. 165, 169 (1952) (quoting Palko v. State of Conn., 302 U.S. 319, 325 (1937)), and is so “‘brutal’ and ‘offensive’ that it [does] not comport with traditional ideas of fair play and decency.” Breithaupt v. Abram, 352 U.S. 432, 435 (1957).
Judge Sabraw relied on the fact of separation and the government's failure to have a reunification plan, despite the June 23 Administration "Fact Sheet," that addressed not only removal but also"reunification for other purposes, such as immigration or asylum proceedings, which can take months." He stated that there was
no genuine dispute that the Government was not prepared to accommodate the mass influx of separated children. Measures were not in place to provide for communication between governmental agencies responsible for detaining parents and those responsible for housing children, or to provide for ready communication between separated parents and children. There was no reunification plan in place, and families have been separated for months.
Judge Sabraw's opinion clearly rests on the substantive due process claim violated by the governmental family separation policy, but also sounds in procedural due process:
the practice of separating these families was implemented without any effective system or procedure for (1) tracking the children after they were separated from their parents, (2) enabling communication between the parents and their children after separation, and (3) reuniting the parents and children after the parents are returned to immigration custody following completion of their criminal sentence. This is a startling reality. The government readily keeps track of personal property of detainees in criminal and immigration proceedings. Money, important documents, and automobiles, to name a few, are routinely catalogued, stored, tracked and produced upon a detainees’ release, at all levels—state and federal, citizen and alien. Yet, the government has no system in place to keep track of, provide effective communication with, and promptly produce alien children. The unfortunate reality is that under the present system migrant children are not accounted for with the same efficiency and accuracy as property. Certainly, that cannot satisfy the requirements of due process. See Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 758-59 (1982) (quoting Lassiter v. Dept. of Soc. Services of Durham County, N.C., 452 U.S. 18, (1981)) (stating it is “‘plain beyond the need for multiple citation’ that a natural parent’s ‘desire for and right to the companionship, care, custody, and management of his or her children’ is an interest far more precious than any property right.”) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Judge Sabraw found that the government's procedures which place "the burden on the parents to find and request reunification with their children under the circumstances presented here is backwards," and that under the present circumstances, "the Government has an affirmative obligation to track and promptly reunify these family members."