Federal Judge Blasts Trump Admin in Border Policy Battle: Gov’t ‘Does Not Understand the Court’s Orders’

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw of the District Court for the Southern District of California is not playing around with the Trump Administration when it comes to the persistent failure to meet court-mandated deadlines for the reunification of families separated by its zero tolerance border policy.

In a Friday night order demanding adherence to a revised schedule for overseeing the process, the Court jabbed at various protests lodged by attorneys for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Judge Sabraw responded to their apparent criticism of his safety concerns:

In a filing late this afternoon and after the in-court status conference, Defendants called into question this Court’s concern for the safety, welfare and well-being of the children Defendants separated from their parents, and who are now being reunited with their parents pursuant to this Court’s injunction. Christopher Meekins [a high-ranking official with HHS], states, “While I am fully committed to complying with this Court’s order, I do not believe that the placing of children into such situations is consistent with the mission of HHS or my core values.”

This umbrage taken was simply the lead-in. Judge Sabraw continued, noting, “It is clear from Mr. Meekins’s Declaration that HHS either does not understand the Court’s orders or is acting in defiance of them.”

Trump administration attorneys had also earlier claimed, in the aforementioned status filing, “While most children should be safely reunited with their actual parents by the court’s deadline, the class is large and the agencies must proceed rapidly and without the procedures that HHS would ordinarily use to place a child with a parent safely.”

Sabraw said these aspersions amounted to little more than excuses for the Trump Administration’s lack of preparation when enacting the controversial family separation policy in early April. He wrote, “At a minimum, it appears [Meekins] is attempting to provide cover to Defendants for their own conduct in the practice of family separation, and the lack of foresight and infrastructure necessary to remedy the harms caused by that practice.”

The court order also notes that ICE itself has a time-honored series of policies for dealing with parents and children who find themselves in immigration detention together. Judge Sabraw noted that such policies were seemingly “successful in ensuring child safety and welfare,” and then wondered out loud why these procedures were mysteriously elusive to the government now. He wrote, “It was the Court’s intent that the reunification of Class Members and their children would proceed along these lines, lines the Government itself had used prior to the implementation of the recent family separation policy.”

In perhaps another hint of the court’s frustration, the next status conference will be held via phone on July 16–and Judge Sabraw encouraged members of the media to dial in with access and security codes provided in the order itself. For those interested, see the last page of the order here.

[image via Joe Raedle/Getty Images]

Follow Colin Kalmbacher on Twitter: @colinkalmbacher

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