Dear Attorney General Sessions, Secretary Nielsen, and Secretary Azar:
We write to request an explanation of the immediate steps you are taking to comply with the U.S. District Court's preliminary injunction in Ms. L et al v U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement et al. In its decision, the court found that the allegations in the lawsuit "sufficiently describe government conduct that arbitrarily tears at the sacred bond between parent and child" and "are sufficient to show the government conduct at issue "shocks the conscience" and violates Plaintiffs' constitutional right to family integrity.
Many of the families seeking protection at the U.S. border are fleeing horrific violence and have legitimate requests for asylum--a protection long enshrined in U.S. law. As the court also stated, "we are a country of laws, and of compassion. We have plainly stated our intent to treat refugees with an ordered process, and benevolence, by codifying principles of asylum."
Separating families as a punishment for seeking a safe future for themselves and their children through lawfully-established channels is abhorrent and can lead to permanent harm to the health and well-being of these children. A 2016 report from a DHS Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers recognized this, concluding it is never in the best interest of a child to be detained because of immigration status.
Under the court's injunction, the government has, at most, 30 days to reunite families separated as a result the "zero tolerance' policy that criminalizes victims of violence, endangers child welfare. Please respond immediately with a description of the processes that will be implemented to comply with the injunction, including specific answers to the following questions:
Will additional resources or staff be allocated to meet the court order for family reunification? If not, will you be able to comply with the court's order within the prescribed time?
Has the government assigned specific units or teams to coordinate the various federal agencies involved in the reunification effort to make sure government complies as soon as possible? If so, please describe.
What system is in place to track children in the government's custody?
What information is provided to parents to keep them apprised of their children's whereabouts?
The ruling stipulates that children under 5 should be reunited with their parents within 14 days. How will the government prioritize reuniting these particularly vulnerable children with their parents?
How is the government addressing the needs of preverbal or nonverbal children and how is the government aiding their reunification with parents?
As directed by the injunction, is the government giving detained parents the opportunity to speak to their children on the phone within 10 days?
Will all reunited families be kept in family detention until their immigration claims have been resolved? How will this comport with the Flores Agreement?
We thank you for your immediate attention to these questions and look forward to your prompt and detailed response.