American Immigration Council

For Immediate Release:
July 26, 2018

American Immigration Council's Statement on the Trump Administration's Failure to Reunite Separated Families

Washington, D.C.— The Trump administration will miss today's court deadline to reunite the nearly 3,000 children separated from their parents under the administration's “zero tolerance” policy. The government's failure to meet the deadline leaves hundreds of children separated from their parents, including 463 parents who have already been deported.  
Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, an attorney at the American Immigration Council, led a team that interviewed over 90 parents detained in the El Paso, Texas area and learned firsthand how many felt pressured into relinquishing their rights or were unaware that they had done so. His account is captured in a declaration filed in the ongoing family separation litigation brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The following is a statement from Beth Werlin, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council.
“The government’s failure to comply with the court order to reunify the thousands of separated children and parents confirms the administration’s utter disregard for the humane and fair treatment of families coming to our country in search of protection. We have grave concerns about the large number of parents who have been coerced into signing papers ensuring their deportation. Many signed these papers without knowing what their options were and without first consulting an immigration attorney. 
"No one should be forced to make decisions about their deportation or potential indefinite separation from their children under these circumstances. The U.S. government must ensure that no asylum seeker is pressured to waive their rights and prevented from having a fair day in court.”
For more information, contact:
Wendy Feliz at the American Immigration Council, or 202-507-7524.

JULY 24, 2018


SAN DIEGO —  The Trump administration today acknowledged it may have deported as many as 463 parents without their children and told a federal judge it still did not have precise information about the status of these families. The court had ordered the government to turn over these details by last Friday.

Government attorneys made the statements during a status conference on the family reunification effort. The American Civil Liberties Union won a nationwide injunction requiring reunification of children under 5 by July 10 and all children by July 26.

There will be additional briefing tomorrow and the parties will be back in court on Friday.

“The Trump administration’s lack of transparency is now bordering on stonewalling,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, adding, “And no one should forget that the government’s claim that it will meet the reunification deadline is based on its exclusion of parents it has deported or can’t locate, as well as on its unilateral, unchecked decision of who is eligible to be reunited or not.”
Case details are here:
JULY 12, 2018


SAN DIEGO — Given the Trump administration’s failure to comply with the July 10 reunification deadline for children under 5, the American Civil Liberties Union today asked a federal court to order the government to:

  • Hand over detailed data about all remaining children who need to be reunited with their parents.
  • Create a fund to pay for professional mental health counseling to treat children who are suffering from severe trauma as a result of the forcible separation from their parents.
  • Reimburse families for reunification travel costs and/or DNA testing.
  • Adhere to an even stricter regimen of progress reports with the court.

The ACLU won a June 26 preliminary injunction requiring reunification of children under 5 within 14 days (July 10), and all children within 30 days (July 26).

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw will hold a status conference tomorrow at 1 p.m. PT/4 p.m. ET.

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said:

“There is no excuse for the Trump administration’s missed deadline. Children are suffering because of it. The government must get these families back together.”

The filing is here:

Case details are here:

JULY 10, 2018


SAN DIEGO — A federal court said the Trump administration must adhere to reunification deadlines for children forcibly separated from their parents or face possible punishment.

The American Civil Liberties Union won a June 26 preliminary injunction requiring reunification of children under 5 within 14 days (July 10) and all children within 30 days (July 26). During today’s status conference, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said:

  • The families were improperly separated, and he would not extend deadlines for reunification: “These are firm deadlines. They’re not aspirational goals.”
  • DNA tests can only be performed when there is a genuine reason to doubt parentage or parentage cannot be established by any other means; samples must be destroyed after matches are made and cannot be added to a government database.
  • The government must take a “streamlined approach” for vetting and reunifying families.

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said:

“The court could not have been clearer that business as usual is not acceptable. The Trump administration must get these children and parents reunited.”

The parties will be back in court this Friday.

Case details are here:

More information is at:

American Immigration Council
June 27, 2018

Lawsuit Demands Trump Administration Hand Over Family Separation Policies and Procedures 

Washington, D.C.– The Trump administration’s plans around family separation and reunification of separated family members have been hidden from the public and Freedom of Information Act requests for information about their policies and procedures have gone unanswered. In response, the American Immigration Council filed a lawsuit today on behalf of a coalition of immigration groups demanding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) release policies, guidance, and data regarding the practice of family separation.

The lawsuit, filed by the Council and international law firm WilmerHale in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, asks the court to compel the agencies to produce documents in response to FOIA requests submitted in April. The requests, filed by the Council, in collaboration with the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, National Immigrant Justice Center, Kids in Need of Defense, Women's Refugee Commission, and WilmerHale asked for information including but not limited to:

  1. Records related to any past, current, or planned policy, guidance, or recommendations regarding the separation of families who arrive at the border, including ports of entry.
  2. Systems for tracking children and adult family members who are separated.
  3. Policies and protocols related to efforts to reunite separated family members.
  4. Training of ICE and CBP officers regarding screening of adult family members for referral for criminal prosecution for immigration violations.
  5. Training regarding treatment of family members and minor children in ICE or CBP custody who have been separated.
  6. Practices and protocols for coordinating communication (telephonic, video, or in-person) between a detained adult family member and a related minor child, following separation.
  7. Coordination among CBP, ICE, DHS, Health and Human Services, and the Department of Justice regarding the processing and handling of the separation of adult family members from related minor children.
  8. Practices or protocols for verifying a family relationship prior to or after separation.
  9. Data regarding the number of minor children separated from adult family members; the number of referrals of adult family members for criminal prosecution where families were separated; the number of referrals for credible fear interviews after separation; and the number of children and parents who departed the United States after separation.
  10. Complaints received by the agencies regarding the separation of families.
“The government has taken thousands of immigrant children—including infants—from their parents yet there is no known system for how this vulnerable population is being managed and when the parents can expect to be reunited with their children—if ever,” said Emily Creighton, the Council’s deputy legal director. “This lawsuit intends to uncover documents supporting the policies that the government would rather remain hidden from view. Among them are justifications for family separation, communication among agencies detailing coordinated efforts to separate families, and comprehensive data showing the systemic implementation of family separation and removal.”

For more information, contact:
Maria Frausto, American Immigration Council, or 202-507-7526.

June 2018