By ELLIOT SPAGAT
SAN DIEGO (AP) — A federal judge ruled Monday that the Trump administration is operating within its authority when separating families stopped at the Mexican border, rejecting arguments that it was quietly returning to widespread practices that drew international condemnation.
The American Civil Liberties Union argued that the administration was splitting families over dubious allegations and minor transgressions including traffic offenses. It asked the judge in July to rule on whether the government was justified in separating 911 children during the first year after the judge halted the general practice in June 2018.
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw indicated he was uncomfortable second-guessing government decisions to separate children on grounds that parents were considered unfit or dangerous, or in other limited circumstances like criminal history, communicable diseases and doubts about parentage. He found no evidence that the government was abusing its discretion.
“It is an invitation that is potentially massive in scope, invades an area that is particularly within the province of the Executive Branch to secure the Nation’s border, and goes beyond this Court’s class certification and preliminary injunction orders, which were focused on the Administration’s practice of separating families at the border for the purpose of deterring immigration, and failing to reunify those families,” Sabraw wrote in a 26-page decision.
It was a rare instance of the San Diego judge siding with the administration. In June 2018, he halted the practice of separating families under a “zero tolerance” policy to deter illegal immigration and ordered they be quickly reunited. Lack of adequate tracking systems at the time made reunification a monumental task.
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