Attorney General Shapiro to File Lawsuit Challenging Trump Administration’s Family Separation Policy

June 21, 2018 | Topic: Rights

Executive Order Signed Yesterday Does Not Fix Unlawful Policy

HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced he will file a multistate lawsuit next week challenging the Trump Administration’s policy of forced family separation on the U.S. southern border. The lawsuit will be filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

“The Trump Administration’s family separation policy is un-American,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “It violates our core principles and values. The executive order President Trump signed yesterday does not fix this abhorrent policy, and we will not allow this Administration to use children as leverage in political battles.”

The lawsuit will allege that the administration’s family separation policy violates the fundamental due process rights of parents to be together with their children, as well as other constitutional and statutory claims. The lawsuit will ask that President Donald Trump immediately comply with the law and Constitution. The suit is being filed by a coalition of nine Attorneys General, including Attorney General Shapiro, Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington, and seven others.

In Pennsylvania, the federal government is housing 50 child immigrants in Pittsburgh as part of its “zero-tolerance” policy. They are being housed at the Holy Family Institute in Emsworth, a Catholic social services organization, which is under contract with the Office of Refugee Resettlement under the Department of Health and Human Services. The children, who are between the ages of four and 17, are from countries including Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

The Department of Homeland Security order signed yesterday by President Trump does not address the reunification of families already separated by the Trump Administration’s policy. Although the order requires appropriation, it does not specify an amount or timeline. It also relies on a federal judge to approve changing the terms of an existing settlement agreement to allow the government to indefinitely detain children.

Earlier this week, Attorney General Josh Shapiro and 20 other Democratic Attorneys General sent a letter to United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen demanding an to end the cruel and illegal tactic of separating children from their parents as families lawfully seek asylum in the United States and protection from domestic, sexual and gang violence. It is estimated that more than 2,000 children have been separated from their immigrant parents.

“The federal government is treating children like prisoners; detaining them behind chain-link cage fencing, and cutting off from communication with their parents. This is unconscionable treatment,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “In Pennsylvania, a parent would be arrested if they treated their children this way.”

On April 6, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new “zero tolerance” policy on the United States’ southern border. Instead of making case-specific evaluations of individual cases, respecting due process rights and family integrity, the Trump Administration began prosecuting all possible immigration crimes, detaining all accused adults, even those with a legitimate asylum claim. The intended and acknowledged effect of this policy has been the separation of parents and children at the border.

The effects of this policy have been stark. In March and April of 2018, the number of families from Latin America apprehended at the southern border increased dramatically, from 5,475 in February to 8,873 in March – a 62 percent increase – and 9,653 in April – a 76 percent increase from February.

In addition to Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro, Attorneys General from the following states also joined the lawsuit: Washington State, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico and Oregon.

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