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Federal Judge Strikes Down Zero-Tolerance Family Separation Policy

On June 26th, a federal court in San Diego ordered the Trump Administration to reunify children under 5 with their families within two weeks and all other children within 30 days. The preliminary injunction also calls on the government to stop separating families at the border. 

This is welcome and long overdue relief for 2,000 children who woke up to another day without their mom or dad. 

This decision arose from a lawsuit we joined via an amicus brief along with Children’s Rights and other child advocacy organizations in March when a child from the Democratic Republic of the Congo was separated from her mother for two months—an early sign of what would become the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy. 

In its decision, the Court relied on our amicus brief to convey how separating families causes irreparable harm to children: “separation from family leaves children more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, no matter what the care setting. In addition, traumatic separation from parents creates toxic stress in children and adolescents that can profoundly impact their development." Read the full decision. 

While this is an important victory for children and families, the government still has no clear system to reunify these children. We’re using our three decades of experience fighting for children’s rights to:

Stop Child Detention: This decision does not explicitly rule on detention of children with their families. Indefinite family detention is not acceptable and violates an existing consent decree. Mass separation cannot be replaced by mass incarceration.

Support Children in New York: We are working to ensure that separated immigrant children brought to New York are safe and well cared for as they await reunification with their parents.

Represent Unaccompanied Minors: Lawyers For Children continues to represent immigrant children who arrive in the country alone and advocates for relief in family court so they can obtain safe, permanent residence in the U.S.

As we continue to fight for children’s rights, we are keeping up the pressure to quickly reunify children and keep them out of detention.