It may take up to two years for the government to identify thousands of immigrant families US authorities separated at the southern border, officials said in a court filing.
The government’s proposed plan outlines a strategy for piecing together exactly who might have been separated by searching through thousands of records using a mix of data analysis and manual review.
The court filing comes a year after a memo from then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions officially created the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. This is the policy which eventually led to the separation of thousands of immigrant families. While
A federal court order forced the reunification of many of those families, an explosive government watchdog report in January revealed there could be thousands more who hadn’t previously been acknowledged by officials. A federal judge last month ruled that this group should be included in the class-action lawsuit over family separations.
The judge’s order was a problem for the Trump administration, which had argued finding these families would be too burdensome a task. And it now will be a major logistical challenge for the government.
These are the factors that complicate the process, officials said in Friday’s court filing:
• All the children from this group of separated families have already been released from government custody
• US Customs and Border Protection didn’t start tracking separated families as a searchable data set in its records before April 19, 2018
• A manual review alone would “overwhelm ORR’s existing resources” because teams would have to comb through nearly 50,000 case files
Word of the government’s proposed plan drew swift opposition from the ACLU.
“We strongly oppose any plan that would give the government up to two years to find these children. The government’s proposed plan reflects the Administration’s continuing refusal to treat these separations with the urgency they deserve,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s immigrant rights project and the lead attorney in its family separations case, in a statement to CNN. “We are talking about the lives of children, potentially thousands of them. The government was able to quickly gather resources to tear these children away from their families and now they need to gather the resources to fix the damage.”