FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 21, 2018
Contact: James Hallinan (505) 660-2216
The deliberate separation of children and their parents as a scheme to deter victims of violence from seeking lawful asylum in America is wrong; Executive Order does not fix unlawful policy
Albuquerque, NM – Attorney General Hector Balderas today announced he will join a coalition of states in challenging the Trump Administration’s policy of forced family separation on the U.S. southern border. The lawsuit will be filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.
“The Justice Department and President Trump’s policy is un-American and unconstitutional, and I will fight to end this attempt to harm children and families,” said Attorney General Hector Balderas. “Law enforcement efforts must be focused on stopping human and drug trafficking, not deterring survivors of violence from lawfully entering the United States.”
The states’ lawsuit will allege the Administration has violated the constitutional due process rights of the parents and children by separating them as a matter of course and without any finding that the parent poses a threat to the children. The policy is also irrationally discriminatory, in violation of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection, because it targets only people crossing our southern border, and not anyone crossing the Northern border or entering the United States elsewhere. The states will also argue that this policy is arbitrary and capricious, and that the Administration has been violating U.S. asylum laws by turning people away at ports of entry.
The states will ask the President to comply with the law and the Constitution. For starters, by correcting the egregious flaws in the executive order, starting by creating a process to reunify the thousands of families torn apart by a cruel and unconstitutional policy, and immediately halting the practice of refusing to accept asylum petitions at the border.
Problems with executive order
New Mexico and the states were poised to file the lawsuit today. Despite President Donald Trump’s previous claims that an executive order could not reverse his family separation policy, on Wednesday he issued an order purporting to do just that.
Following a close review of the order, the states found two main problems.
First, the order does nothing to reunify families already torn apart by the Trump Administration’s policy.
Second, the order is riddled with so many caveats as to be meaningless. For example, the order requires appropriations, although the total amount is unknown, as is the timeline for when or if such an appropriation would happen. It also relies on a federal judge approving a plan to indefinitely detain children.
The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement reported that 15 Unaccompanied Children (UAC) taken into custody in New Mexico were released to U.S. sponsors between October 2017 and April 2018, but those children were not released to caregivers licensed by the State of New Mexico. One Brazilian grandmother held at the Santa Teresa border crossing in New Mexico was separated from her 16-year-old ward almost a year ago. The child, who has severe epilepsy, neurological problems and is autistic, was placed out of state.
New Mexico also has an interest in ensuring that New Mexico citizens continue to be afforded their rights to cross the U.S.-Mexico border without harassment. Because many New Mexico families visit their relatives in Mexico and because these families traditionally visit with their own children in tow, such New Mexico citizens face the potential of separation in derogation of their rights to travel and to maintain their familial ties.
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