U.S. Can Take Migrant Kids Based on Parents’ Petty Crimes: Judge

(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration can continue to separate families at the Mexican border based on a parent’s criminal history even if their offenses don’t signal a danger to the children, a federal judge said.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw rejected the concerns raised by the American Civil Liberties Union that immigration officials have given too much weight to petty crimes in separating families. The San Diego judge also ruled, however, that the U.S. must administer a DNA test before separating parents from a child because of concern they aren’t related.

The ACLU last year said the administration defied Sabraw’s 2018 order to halt familiy separations at the border except under a limited set of circumstances. More than 900 children, including babies and toddlers, had been separated from their parents in the since the judge’s 2018 ruling over the “most minor” of infractions, such as traffic violations, the organization said.

Sabraw declined to interfere with the immigration officials’ decisions on whether a parent’s criminal background makes them a danger to a child or unfit as a parent.

“This case does not involve individual issues of child welfare that typically confront child protective service agencies,” the judge said. “Rather, the system at issue in this case involves Customs and Border Protection officers making decisions about hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people crossing daily at the border.”

Concerns about criminal history account for the largest number of family separations at the border, about 750 over a 12-month period, according to the judge’s ruling. A much smaller number of separations, 46, have occurred because of doubts the children were related to the adults they were traveling with. The U.S. has already been using “Rapid DNA” technology, which provides a result in 90 minutes, at some locations along the border.

The case is Ms. L. v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 18-cv-00428, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California (San Diego).

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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