The Washington Post reports that a federal judge ruled on March 8, 2019, that all migrant families separated during the government’s border crackdown should be included in a class-action lawsuit. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in California said the universe of separated families should extend beyond the 2,700-plus children taken from their parents last spring, and include families forced apart as early as July 1, 2017, and the months afterward, when the Trump administration was denying that it had a policy of separating families.
Sabraw said a government watchdog report in January that potentially thousands more families were separated than the Trump administration had admitted publicly compelled the court to look into the matter.
“The hallmark of a civilized society is measured by how it treats its people and those within its borders,” he wrote in a 14-page ruling. “That Defendants may have to change course and undertake additional effort to address these issues does not render modification of the class definition unfair; it only serves to underscore the unquestionable importance of the effort and why it is necessary (and worthwhile).”
The ruling dramatically expands the scope of the class-action lawsuit that compelled the Trump administration to reunite the separated families and prolongs a political tangle for the president that had been nearing its end.
Sabraw said he would hear arguments later this month to decide whether to require the Trump administration to locate the rest of the families. But he said “the Court has an obligation to resolve that question,” especially for parents who may have been deported without their children, and although it “may be burdensome, it clearly can be done.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the parents in the lawsuit, cheered the decision and said it would ask Sabraw to order the Trump administration to provide the names and contact information of all the separated families, as it did for the ones split up last spring.
The lawsuit is Ms. L v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
This blog is intended to provide information to the general public and to practitioners about developments that may impact Oregon class actions.