A group of Muslim men pray while supporters hold up signs during an interfaith prayer and rally at John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) to protest U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban on immigrants and refugees from seven nations in New York, U.S. (Photographer: Kholood Eid/Bloomberg)

U.S. Judge Temporarily Halts Deportation of Migrant Families

(Bloomberg) -- A judge overseeing the reuniting of about 2,500 migrant parents and children separated during a border crossing crackdown ordered a temporary halt to deportations of these families.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw issued the directive during a hearing Monday in San Diego after the American Civil Liberties Union complained it was hearing that the Trump administration planned rumors of immediate "mass deportations" for migrant parents after they’re reunited with their children.

Overall, the judge voiced “great confidence” with the government’s reunification plan after officials told him they’re matched 2,480 minors with their parents and have pre-cleared more than 1,300 of the parents to get their children back. The U.S. has a deadline in 10 days to complete the process.

The halt on deportations 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 political asylum on their own, the ACLU said in a filing Monday.

"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.

Sabraw said he will consider lifting his order after U.S. officials file further legal arguments.

The children were separated from their parents under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy for prosecuting illegal border crossings, one of several directives intended to crack down on undocumented immigration. The minors were then sent to more than 1,000 facilities around the country.

The focus now is on reuniting kids ages 5-17 after the government reported last week that it had complied with an earlier order to first concentrate on children under age 5. Some parents are being weeded out after wrongfully claiming to be parents or because they committed crimes that disqualify them from reunification.

The government on Monday invited the judge to visit one of the detention sites where reunifications are being processed. Sabraw didn’t immediately respond to the offer.

A lawyer for the U.S., Sarah Fabian, told the judge that she needed to confer with her colleagues to ensure that the temporary halt to deportations won’t adversely affect reunifications or result in a slow-down.

“I don’t think that should be a problem," Sabraw said. "Reunifications should continue. The idea that it’d slow down or stop -- for logistical reasons -- from trying to deport families immediately upon reunion, that is not an option. That just shouldn’t be happening.”

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