The Trump administration withheld additional contact information that could help reunite separated families—and a federal judge is demanding to know why. Last week, the federal government turned over additional data as part of efforts to find the deported parents of hundreds of children who remain without their moms and dads after being separated at the southern border beginning in 2017.
But advocates tasked with reunification efforts said the administration had been sitting on that data and disclosed it only after new attention was drawn to its inhumane policy. The judge in litigation around the case is now demanding an explanation from officials. “This is disturbing in that it seems to be readily available information and it was a matter of tapping into it,” Judge Dana Sabraw said according to Courthouse News Service (CNS).
NBC News reported earlier this month that while advocates tasked with reunification efforts by the court had not had time to fully review the new Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) data, they said it contained “phone numbers that had not previously been known,” and could help in efforts to reunite the over 600 children who continue to remain without their parents.
But they also said that new information was disclosed in recent days only after months of pleading—and after renewed public anger, they said. “This is not obscure information, it is from a fairly standard database,” American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney Lee Gelernt told CNS. “Only did we hear from them about additional information right after outcry before the second presidential debate. The fact they’ve been sitting on these phone numbers and addresses seems outrageous.”
CNS reports that Justice Department attorney Sarah Fabian claimed there was no “neglectful or nefarious intent” around the late disclosure, saying “she was involved in ‘brainstorming’ additional federal databases which may contain updated contact information useful to help reunite families,” the report continued.
Speaking of neglect: Fabian, we should all never forget, is the notorious government attorney who last year argued in court that the federal government shouldn’t have to give soap or toothbrushes to migrant children in U.S. custody. Yup, that was her. Her miserable argument thankfully got rejected, following the unanimous decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruling that, yes, these kids actually do require basic human dignity.
So Fabian fails the smell test, but let’s see what excuse the federal government officially offers up in response to Sabraw, who in summer 2018 ordered a stop to the administration’s policy and the reunification of more than 2,700 children kidnapped from their parents by officials. The following year, advocates identified an additional 1,556 children who were stolen by the administration before the policy was officially implemented, and 1,090 children stolen through a loophole after Sabraw’s injunction.
The representatives of the federal government want to claim oops we swear none of that was on purpose, but the track record has been nefarious over and over again. “The Trump admin purposely withheld vital information delaying the process of reuniting children separated from their parents,” tweeted Kids In Need of Defense (KIND). “It’s cruel & a violation of human rights that our gov’t unduly prolonged these children’s pain & suffering.”