As Trump administration officials attempt to reunite hundreds of parents still separated from their children, a class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday (July 31) calls for families to be given additional time to seek asylum in the United States.
A U.S. district judge in San Diego is weighing whether to temporarily stay deportations of parents after they are reunited with their children. Additional time would allow them to decide whether to fight their deportation cases or leave their children behind in the U.S.
The new lawsuit, however, filed in the District of Columbia, argues that immigrant families were never given the opportunity to seek asylum and, consequently, should be given the chance to appear before a judge, according to a report by The Washington Post.
"We’re not arguing that all these children and parents should be given asylum . . . just the right to apply for asylum," Justin Bernick, an attorney with Hogan Lovells, told the Post.
U.S District Judge Paul Friedman in Washington must now decide whether to move the case to the federal judge in San Diego handling family separations or decide it himself.
Some 700 children out of more than 2,500 who were separated from their parents continue to await reunification. Trump administration attorneys are expected to update judge Dana Sabraw today (August 1) in San Diego on the status of hundreds of parents whom the government deemed "ineligible" for reunification. At least 431 of these adults have been deported.
The developments come as the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday heard testimony from U.S. immigration officials relating to the Trump administration’s family separation policy.
Officials largely defended the policy, which has generated international outcry and been panned by Democrats and Republicans. But one official, Jonathan D. White of the Department of Health and Human Services, told lawmakers his agency had warned the Trump administration about the potential dangers family separation would inflict on children.
"There’s no question that separation of children from parents entails significant potential for traumatic psychological injury to the child," White told committee members.
White also stated that White House officials said there was no policy in place that would result in children being separated from their parents.
Immigration advocates have reported abusive conditions at several child detention centers across the country, including allegations of physical and psychological abuse.
On Monday (July 30), a federal judge ordered government officials to obtain consent from parents before their children are administered psychotropic drugs, after a court filing revealed that staff at a Texas detention center medicated dozens of children, sometimes forcibly, without permission.