Since the Trump administration announced it would end its practice of separating families apprehended at the southern border last June under its "zero tolerance" immigration policy, at least 245 children have been separated from their parents, according to a new court filing.
Between late June 2018 and early February of this year, the administration identified 245 children who had been separated, though four of them are under additional review. The administration said the basis for the separation in the majority of cases was "criminality, prosecution, gang affiliation or other law enforcement purpose."
The court document is a status report in an ongoing family separation lawsuit. The court will hold a hearing Thursday.
The American Civil Liberties Union originally filed the case against the Trump administration last year on behalf of a Congolese woman, referred to as "Ms. L," who was seeking asylum in the US and was separated from her 7-year-old daughter. The case was later expanded to become a class-action lawsuit.
District Judge Dana Sabraw issued a preliminary injunction last June blocking most family separations at the US-Mexico border and ordering that those already separated be reunited.
As of February 13, the government has discharged 2,735 of 2,816 possible children who fell under the Ms. L lawsuit, according to Wednesday's court filing. There are also five children in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is required to place kids with a sponsor in the US, proceeding toward reunification "or other appropriate discharge." Four of those children have parents who are not in the US.
Of the children who were separated as of last June, 62 are no longer in Office of Refugee Resettlement care, according to the court filing. It adds: "Based on the information available to date, in the 245 identified separations the parent was either excluded from the Ms. L class or was separated for a reason consistent with the Court's preliminary injunction."
The government is still reviewing the cases of four separations.
Plaintiffs in the case have requested additional information on the new separations. The government, per the filing, is working on putting that together.
The administration has come under renewed scrutiny for the handling of separations following a Health and Human Services inspector general report that revealed thousands more children had been separated than previously reported. Sabraw had ordered the administration to respond to the report.
The government's response, the latest figures of separations, and the scope of the case is expected to come up during Thursday's hearing.
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