Leaked Family Separation Memo May Bolster Detained Children’s Case

(Bloomberg) -- Lawyers suing to speed reunification of detained migrant children with relatives have moved to bolster their case with a 2017 draft memorandum purporting to show the government separated the families to deter illegal border crossings.

The memo, entitled "Policy Options to Respond to Border Surge of Illegal Immigration," recommends targeting parents because that would be reported by the media and "would have substantial deterrent effect."

The document -- leaked last week to U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon -- also advocates putting parents in detention while keeping children in federal custody. Merkley has called on the FBI to investigate whether Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen lied in December when she told a House committee there was no such policy.

The legal maneuvering comes in a suit filed in Alexandria, Virginia, federal court last year on behalf of children detained in that state. A revised complaint lodged with the court on Friday aims to allow them to represent 10,000 such children nationwide. They’re also demanding new procedures for reuniting family members. A hearing was scheduled before U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema for Feb. 15 to consider the lawyers’ bid.

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