Immigration Judge Is Urged to Halt ‘Mass Deportations’ of Parents

(Bloomberg) -- Rumors of immediate "mass deportations" from the U.S. planned for migrant parents after they’re reunited with their children prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to seek an emergency order from a judge barring such removals for a week.

The proposed delay will give parents the time they need to decide whether to take their children back to their home countries or leave them in the U.S. to seek asylum on their own, the rights group said in a filing Monday in federal court in San Diego.

"Due to their unlawful separations, parents and children have had no chance to have meaningful conversations with one another about the family’s collective options," the ACLU said in the filing.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, who’s overseeing a wide-ranging lawsuit over the U.S. policy of separating children of undocumented immigrants from their parents, is set to get an update Monday on government efforts to reunite some 2,500 children, after he demanded more cooperation from the administration.

The choice about whether to leave a child behind has been made more difficult -- and time consuming -- by Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s recent decision to begin denying asylum to people who are fleeing domestic or gang violence, according to the filing.

"It appears that the government is contemplating that parents will be forced to make the choice whether to leave their children behind in advance of seeing their children, even for a few hours," the ACLU said.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Health and Human Services didn’t immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.

The delay is needed because the government’s decision to separate parents and children has put their removal cases on separate tracks involving different legal teams, the ACLU said.

"Had the families not been separated in the first place, they would have been together to discuss their options, and their cases would have remained on the same track," the rights group said in the filing.

The New York-based rights group said that parent who decide to waive their asylum claims and agree to be deported with their child could unwittingly "extinguish" any independent claims their children may have under a landmark 1997 settlement agreement about how the U.S. can treat immigrant minors.

"Parents cannot make such momentous decisions on behalf of their families without knowing what claims their children may have, or even that their children may have independent claims," the ACLU said in its filing. Volunteer lawyers are standing by to assist the families, but it will take time to bring them up to speed, the group said.

The ACLU said it still isn’t clear if all the migrant parents have been made aware of an earlier court order barring the U.S. from forcing immigrant parents to accept immediate deportation in exchange for being reunified with their children.

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).

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