NEW YORK (Reuters) - Lawyers for immigrant families separated by the U.S. government at the border with Mexico said a federal judge’s order barring rapid deportations until at least next Tuesday would give their clients breathing room as they decided their next steps.
The families had been separated amid a broader crackdown on illegal immigration by President Donald Trump’s administration, sparking an international outcry and a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Trump ordered that the practice be halted on June 20, and the government faces a court-imposed July 26 deadline to reunite families.
But with more than 2,500 children and their parents remaining separate, lawyers have been scrambling to stem deportations and give immigrant families a greater say in their futures.
In Monday’s order, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego agreed with the ACLU that parents facing imminent deportation deserved a week to decide whether to leave their children in the United States to pursue asylum separately.
The order gave lawyers more time to “figure out what reunification is going to mean for our clients,” said Beth Krause, a supervising lawyer at Legal Aid’s Immigrant Youth Project.
Immigrant families won a separate victory on Monday night, when U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain in Manhattan temporarily barred the government from moving any of the dozens of separated children represented in New York by the Legal Aid Society without at least 48 hours’ notice.
Legal Aid had sought an emergency injunction, saying the government was moving children and parents without giving them time to meet their lawyers and discuss possible legal consequences, including removal from the country.
At a Tuesday afternoon hearing before U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan, government lawyers sought to overturn Swain’s order, saying the case could impede its ability to comply with the order to reunify families.
Furman declined to rule immediately, saying he had yet to read the underlying paperwork.
Gregory Copeland, a Legal Aid lawyer, told the judge he did not believe any children had been moved out of New York since the lawsuit had been filed.
Swain’s temporary order expires on July 19 unless a judge extends it.
Jorge Baron, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, said Sabraw’s broader ban on rapid deportations “buys us a little bit of time.”
“I am still uncertain we have made contact with all the parents who are detained in our particular region,” he said.
Baron’s group has secured legal representation for several dozen separated parents sent to government detention centres in Washington state. But even on Monday, he said, he learned of an immigrant mother who had yet to make contact with a lawyer.
“She might have slipped through the cracks,” without the judge’s order, Baron said.
Many of the immigrants are fleeing violence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen and Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Rosalba O'Brien