U.S. Ninth Circuit - The FindLaw 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Separating Families at the Border Violates Due Process, Judge Rules

It is "brutal," "offensive," and offends "fair play and decency" to take children from their mothers seeking asylum, a federal judge said.

And if that's not enough, it violates the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution. Judge Dana Sabraw minced no words in refusing the government's motion to dismiss a complaint by two immigrant mothers.

In Ms. L. v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the mothers said they were forcibly separated from their minor children for months. Now that the court has ruled, the government will have to answer for much longer.

1,000 Miles Away

In one instance, San Ysidro immigration officials detained a mother and her six-year-old seeking asylum based on religious prosecution. They took the child more than a 1,000 miles away and kept her in a detention facility.

"When S.S. was taken away from her mother, she was screaming and crying, pleading with guards not to take her away from her mother," the complaint alleged.

While in detention, Ms. L. filed her complaint against the government. She was soon released and reunited with her daughter -- more than four months after being separated.

Along with another mother in a proposed class-action, they alleged the government violated the Asylum Statute or Administrative Procedure Act. The judge dismissed those claims, but allowed them to proceed on due process grounds.

Due Process Grounds

Government representatives had concerns the children were endangered and their parents were unfit. But the judge didn't buy it.

"These allegations sufficiently describe government conduct that arbitrarily tears at the sacred bond between parent and child," Sabraw wrote.

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