The Trump administration wanted to drag its feet for two whole years on finding every single separated migrant child.
On Thursday, a federal judge gave Trump officials six months to identify every single immigrant child they kidnapped as part of Trump's family separation policy — which may have victimized thousands more children than the public initially knew about.
The order is a rebuke of the Trump administration, which had asked the court for up to two years to find all the children stolen from their families at the border. At the time, the ACLU skewered the administration for the suggested timeline.
"The government's proposed plan reflects the administration's continuing refusal to treat these separations with the urgency they deserve," Lee Gelernt, the ACLU's lead attorney, told NBC News in early April. "The government was able to quickly gather resources to tear these children away from their families and now they need to gather the resources to fix the damage."
The ACLU praised the new six-month timeline ordered by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw.
"This order shows that the court continues to recognize the gravity of this situation," Gelernt said in a statement. As a part of the order, the administration will turn over the names of stolen children to the ACLU on a rolling basis so that the organization can contact their families and give parents the opportunity to reunite with their children.
The Trump administration's lackluster efforts drew the ire of Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
"A federal judge should have appointed a Special Master long ago to take this out of the government's hands," Castro told Shareblue Media. "The Trump Administration has proven it's too malicious, incompetent or indifferent to reunite families properly and timely."
The ruling is part of an ongoing legal battle between the ACLU and the Trump administration over thousands of children forcibly separated from their parents in 2017 and 2018. In January 2019, the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services warned that "thousands of children" — in addition to the 2,737 children previously identified as taken from their parents — may have been separated in 2017.
Before suggesting the two-year timeline, the Trump administration resisted the notion that they should be forced to find any of the newly-identified children at all. Lawyers arguing on behalf of Trump argued that locating the children was a "significant burden," and that the administration has already "done all things to correct the wrong."
But Judge Sabraw was having none of it. In a March 2019 ruling, he criticized the Trump administration's position, saying the "hallmark of a civilized society is measured by how it treats its people and those within its borders." He added that identifying the children so they can be reunited with their parents is both necessary and worthwhile.
Despite worldwide outrage over the unconscionable family separation policy — described by human rights organizations as an "abuse of children" — the Trump administration has steadfastly resisted court orders to reunite the kidnapped children with their families.
Rather than do the right thing on its own, the Trump administration is being forced to do it by a federal judge.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.