The Trump administration has taken hundreds of children from their families at the United States-Mexico border since a judge ordered the practice be stopped last year, Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) told a federal judge on Tuesday.
Of the hundreds of thousands of children detained at the border since the court order last year, 911 had been separated from their families, the ACLU said in a 218-page court filing in San Diego citing data from the US Justice Department.
In June 2018, US District Court Dana Sabraw issued a preliminary injunction that ordered the government to halt the practice of splitting families at the border except in limited circumstances — such as concerns about a child’s safety.
Kevin McAleenan, the acting Homeland Security Secretary, has said that family separations are “extremely rare” and only occur when a parent poses a risk to a child due to his or her criminal record, a communicable disease, abuse or neglect.
However, the ACLU says federal immigration and border protection agents are separating families based on minor offenses, as minor as a parent not changing a baby’s diaper or having a traffic citation for driving without a license.
A government spreadsheet shows 44 separations based on assault allegations. However, in 11 of those cases, there is no indication that the parent was convicted and 34 don’t signify the severity of the offense, the ACLU said.
The group asked the judge to order the government to clarify when separations should be allowed to occur.