Timeline: Family separations under the "zero-tolerance" policy | CLINIC

Timeline: Family separations under the "zero-tolerance" policy

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Click here to read more about what is happening beyond the border under multiple policies.

April 6, 2018: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions initiated a “zero-tolerance” policy and directed U.S. Attorneys to prosecute for illegal entry under 8 USC 1325(a) all those apprehended along the Southwest border. Under this policy, the Department of Homeland Security refers 100% of illegal Southwest Border crossers, including asylum seekers, to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution. Part of the policy of prosecuting parents was to separate them from their children.


June 20, 2018: President Trump issued an Executive Order claiming to end family separation but without providing instructions on how DHS should reunify more than 2,300 children with their parents. Moreover, the change in policy reaffirmed the zero-tolerance policy and was contingent on DHS expanding family detention. It instructed DOD to look into facilities to detain families together. It ordered the government to seek to modify the Flores v. Sessions settlement agreement, a 1997 court order establishing national standards around the detention and treatment of children in immigration detention. Under Flores, children in ICE custody must be released after 20 days.


June 21, 2018: DOJ filed a request with U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California to modify the Flores agreement. Specifically, it asked to be allowed to incarcerate accompanied minors who arrived with a parent or legal guardian indefinitely during criminal prosecution and immigration proceedings, which could mean families being detained for several years or even indefinitely. It also asked the court to exempt ICE “family residential facilities” from state licensing requirements. The court will hold a hearing on July 27.


June 23, 2018: DHS issued Fact Sheet: Zero-Tolerance Prosecution and Family Reunification describing its implementation of the zero tolerance policy following the President’s Executive Order on the reunification of families. The fact sheet claims that children and parents will be reunited prior to the parent’s departure from the US and that ICE has implemented an identification database for linked family members.


June 26, 2018: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California issued preliminary injunction ruling that children cannot be separated from their parents and setting a timeline for reunifying children who have already been separated (younger than 5 years within 14 days, all others within 30 days) unless the parent is unfit, presents a danger to the child or declines to be reunited with the child. The decision validates a constitutional due process right not to have one’s family arbitrarily separated. See Ms. L. v. ICE, Case No. 3:18-cv-00428-DMS-MDD.


July 9, 2018: Judge Dolly Gee rejects DOJ's request to modify the Flores settlement agreement and finds that “hold[ing] minors in indefinite detention in unlicensed facilities…would constitute a fundamental and material breach of the parties’ Agreement.” According to the court, “[a]bsolutely nothing prevents Defendants from reconsidering their current blanket policy of family detention and reinstating prosecutorial discretion.”


July 10, 2018: The Trump administration failed to comply with the July 10 deadline set by the court in Ms. L. v. ICE for reunifying an alleged 102 children under age 5 with their parents.


July 16, 2018: Judge Dana Sabraw issued an interim stay preventing the government from deporting any of the separated families who are class members in the Ms. L. v. ICE case until a July 24 hearing on the issue.


July 26, 2018: The government failed to meet the court’s July 26 deadline in Ms. L. v. ICE for reunifying approximately 2,551 children ages 5 to17 with their parents. As of the deadline, over 900 families had not yet been reunified and 463 parents had already been deported without their children.