A lawsuit that sought to provide immigrant children in New York separated from their parents with advanced notice before being moved to another facility has been transferred to a federal judge in California.
U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of New York ordered the case be sent to Southern District of California Judge Dana Sabraw, who is supervising the reunification of immigrant families by the federal government.
The case will now be considered by Sabraw in conjunction with another case involving a mother and her child that were separated after fleeing to the United States from the Democratic Republic of Congo. That case, Ms. L v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has resulted in a court order from Sabraw for the government to reunite separated children by July 26.
Furman also extended indefinitely a temporary restraining order that blocked the government from transferring the two plaintiffs in the New York case to a different facility. The lawsuit was brought by the Legal Aid Society on behalf of two children who were scheduled to be moved to a facility in Texas this week, according to Legal Aid.
Legal Aid will now work on the case with the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the mother and child who fled from Congo.
“We are relieved that the court extended this injunction requiring the federal government to disclose important details on transfer plans and afford our clients sufficient time to speak with their parents and make a more informed decision about their case,” said Adriene Holder, attorney-in-charge of the civil practice at Legal Aid. “The Legal Aid Society looks forward to joining the ACLU’s case, Ms. L. v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and arguing the merits of our litigation in federal court.”
Legal Aid is representing two children who traveled to the United States with their parents from countries in Central America. Both children were separated from their parents at the border. Neither child has been made aware of their options to legally remain in the United States, whether that involves being reunited with their families or not, Legal Aid said in the lawsuit.
They want the federal government to give children at least 48 hours notice before transferring them from New York to another detention facility. That would give the children time to consult with an attorney about their options for asylum or other relief, Legal Aid said. The lawsuit would also compel the United States to provide the children with contact information for their parents.
Furman gave three reasons why he decided to transfer the case to Sabraw rather than continue the litigation in New York.
First, the classes in both the Legal Aid lawsuit and Ms. L are the same. Legal Aid is suing on behalf of children whose parents are class members in Ms. L.
The case also directly relates to the reunification process that Sabraw is already supervising, so it makes sense to consider both cases simultaneously, Furman wrote. The children have argued, according to Furman, that Sabraw’s previous decisions did not specifically address their due process rights apart from their parents.
Furman’s third reason is consistency. Having two judges decide cases with many of the same elements could lead to inconsistent decisions and conflicting orders, he said.
Though it already resulted in an order to reunite immigrant families, the Ms. L case is ongoing. The ACLU filed a motion this week asking the court to block the government from deporting immigrant parents until at least one week after they are reunited with their children.
The ACLU also filed a second amended complaint in the case earlier this month. A response from the U.S. Department of Justice on the complaint is due Aug. 16.