The judge made the ruling after learning that thousands more children were separated from their families at the border than originally thought.
The Trump administration has already been ordered by a federal judge to reunite the thousands of migrant families it cruelly separated at the border last summer.
But after a new report found that thousands more migrant children were likely ripped from their parents than previously believed, the judge massively expanded his ruling to try to account for every single stolen child.
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw ruled on Friday that the Trump administration must now return children who were separated from their families on or before July 1, 2017.
Initially, his ruling only covered children who were stolen from their parents on June 26, 2018 or later. But since Sabraw's initial ruling, an internal watchdog for the Department of Health and Human Services reported that thousands more children than initially thought were separated from their parents at the border, beginning in summer 2017 — far earlier than previously thought.
Still, the Trump administration tried to fight against the expanded ruling, telling Sabraw last month that it's a "significant burden" to identify the children's families as the children are no longer in custody and instead have been released to other family or guardians in the U.S. The Trump administration argued that they have "done all things to correct the wrong."
Sabraw, however, was not convinced.
In his order demanding that the children be reunited with their families, Sabraw wrote:
The hallmark of a civilized society is measured by how it treats its people and those within its borders. That defendants may have to change course and undertake additional effort to address these issues does not render modification of the class definition unfair; it only serves to underscore the unquestionable importance of the effort and why it is necessary (and worthwhile).
The Trump administration, for its part, has fought Sabraw's reunification orders at every turn, missing deadlines and complaining about the "burden" reunification would put on the administration.
However Sabraw has had none of it, criticizing the Trump administration's incompetence and cruelty that led the children to be taken from their parents in the first place.
"All of this is the result of the government’s separation, and then inability and failure to track and reunite," Sabraw wrote in an August 2018 ruling ordering the Trump administration to reunite families.
Ultimately, the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy that led to child separations has been an utter disaster that top administration officials like DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen have been unable to adequately defend.
Just last week, Nielsen claimed she had no idea that separating kids from their parents would be traumatizing — an idea that is backed up not only by research but also by common sense. And she tried to say that the cages the government has been using to hold migrants, including some children, are nothing like dog cages because they are "larger."
And family reunification has only been so difficult because the Trump administration was so careless in its accounting when they did rip kids from their parents.
It may take time, but Judge Sabraw — an appointee of President George W. Bush — is not stopping in his quest to ensure these children are returned to their rightful guardians.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.