The American Civil Liberties Union says the Trump administration has separated over 900 migrant children from their families, despite a 2018 court order that aimed to curtail the controversial practice.
"The government is systematically separating large numbers of families based on minor criminal history, highly dubious allegations of unfitness, and errors in identifying bona fide parent-child relationships," the ACLU said in a filing to a federal district court in San Diego.
The court order states that US Customs and Border Protection agents cannot separate migrant families except for cases where the parent poses a risk to the child; this would include instances in which the adult is suspected of neglect, abuse, or carrying a disease. But the ACLU claims border agents have continued to separate migrant families based on minor infractions—some of which were committed many years ago and others that never led a conviction.
According to legal documents obtained by CNN, the ACLU reports that between June 28, 2018 and June 29, 2019, federal law enforcement had separated 911 minors—including infants and toddlers—from their parents; 185 of those children were reportedly under the age of five.
The filing, which is part an ongoing lawsuit over the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy, includes several examples of questionable family separation cases. One focuses on three young girls who were allegedly separated from their father in late 2018 because of his HIV diagnosis. The document points out that the father does not have a criminal history nor has he been accused of being an unfit parent: "To date, and despite the requests of Plaintiffs and legal services providers, Defendants have not explained why an HIV diagnosis compels separation," the filing reads.
The ACLU is now asking a judge to clarify what conditions would warrant family separations at the U.S. border.