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Federal Judge In San Diego Bars Migrant Family Separations


A federal judge is telling the Trump administration to be as efficient in reuniting families as it was in separating them. The judge in Southern California gave the administration 30 days to return thousands of children to their parents. Kids under 5 must be returned sooner. These were all children separated from their parents as families crossed the border. Here's reporter Jean Guerrero of KPBS Fronteras.

JEAN GUERRERO, BYLINE: The federal judge issued a nationwide injunction to stop the Trump administration from separating families at the border. He says the government has to reunify all children with their parents within a month, and within two weeks for children under 5 years old. The order was issued as part of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit. Senior staff attorney Bardis Vakili says the ACLU didn't trust officials to reunify families without a push from the courts.

BARDIS VAKILI: Every day of separation is very, very harmful to these children. That's the universal opinion of the medical experts.

GUERRERO: In the ruling, Judge Dana Sabraw noted the lack of communication between agencies involved in immigrant family separations. He ordered the government to provide phone contact between children and parents within 10 days and to stop deporting parents without their children. Family separations escalated after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a zero tolerance policy at the border amid a surge in asylum-seekers fleeing gang violence in Central America. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has since said it's pausing the zero tolerance policy. The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of an asylum-seeker who was separated from her 7-year-old daughter after presenting herself at the port of entry legally. It later became a class action suit and sought relief for all immigrant families that were separated. One mother, Olivia Caceres (ph), managed to reunite with her 1-year-old after weeks of back-and-forth with the government. She says the toddler is showing signs of trauma.

OLIVIA CACERES: (Through interpreter) He's been really fearful. When he sees strangers, he thinks they're going to take him. He just grabs me.

GUERRERO: The ACLU called the judge's ruling in favor of reunifying these families an enormous victory. This week, 17 states, including California, sued the government over the family separation practice. For NPR News, I'm Jean Guerrero in San Diego. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jean Guerrero
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