ACLU vs. Trump: David Cole on the Fight to Reunite Children Separated from Parents at Border

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The Trump administration will not meet today’s deadline to reunite all migrant children under the age of 5 whom immigration officials took from their parents at the border and then sent to jails and detention centers across the country. The Justice Department says it will reunite only about half of the more than 100 migrant children under 5 today, after a federal judge in San Diego agreed to extend the deadline mandating the reunification of all of the youngest children. Today’s secretive reunification operation will be overseen by the Department of Homeland Security and will involve transporting the children hundreds of miles across the country to undisclosed locations. In total, about 3,000 children are still separated from their parents. For more, we speak with David Cole, national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union and professor of law and public policy at Georgetown University Law Center.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: David Cole, we only have a few minutes left. I wanted to see if you could talk a little bit about the current situation with the battle over—with the Trump administration on immigration and on the reuniting of those children separated from the parents that they were taken from.

DAVID COLE: Well, we are trying to hold the Trump administration’s feet to the fire. And we’re in the court in San Diego, where we got an injunction a couple weeks ago saying you’ve got to reunite the families—within 30 days, all the families; within 14 days, the children under 5. When we were back in court in the last couple days, they didn’t even have a list of the children under 5. And they were, you know, unclear whether they knew which kids were related to which parents. The judge, fortunately, is really, you know, holding their feet to the fire. And we’re basically in there talking with him and with the government on a daily basis about: Are they doing enough? And the answer is, no, they’re not. But they are being pressured by a court to do that. So—

AMY GOODMAN: So the judge granted them an extension today for the under fives. There’s two weeks, and all 3,000 kids have to be reunited.

DAVID COLE: Right, right, right.

AMY GOODMAN: They have given the names of the 102 kids?

DAVID COLE: Yeah, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: They’ve reunited, what? Under 50.

DAVID COLE: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Today, all at once, those 50 will be reunited?

DAVID COLE: Well, I—

AMY GOODMAN: And then what happens to the other 50?

DAVID COLE: Well, I mean, I think—I think, you know, realistically, they’re going to—they have to get them reunited as quickly as possible. They will not meet the deadline of today, but they—but you just—what you do is you continue to press. They screwed this up from the beginning. And they’re not putting in sufficient resources to respond in a fast and efficient way. I mean, these are kids who are suffering, who are—and parents who are suffering, separated from their families. And the government is coming in and saying, “We can’t”—you know, at one point the government said, “I have to dogsit for my dog back home, so I can’t come in here on the weekend to have an emergency hearing.” I mean, the Trump administration needs to take this more seriously. We’re doing everything we can. I think the American people, by coming out and protesting and speaking out as forcefully as they have, have helped tremendously. And I hope we can get the kids and the families reunited.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you take this as a done deal: Brett Kavanaugh will be the next Supreme Court justice?

CECILE RICHARDS: No.

RACHEL TIVEN: No.

AMY GOODMAN: Rachel Tiven?

RACHEL TIVEN: No, not at all. Absolutely not. I think, first of all, this is a very, very closely divided Senate. Right? There are—only a couple of votes need to shift for this nomination to be blocked. And when—Senator McConnell has been so clear that when you’re within—oh, I don’t know—a year of an election—right? I mean, this is—at what point will Democrats, and surely some Republicans, call out the hypocrisy here? I mean, I think that people are worried for the future of their country. And bipartisan people are worried for the future of their country.

AMY GOODMAN: Cecile Richards?

CECILE RICHARDS: Well, I mean, I think, look, if the 5 million people who marched the day after the inauguration called their United States senators with concern, I think this process would be slowed down, and I think people would actually take a really hard look at this nominee. And I agree this should be delayed until after the midterm elections. This is—you know, the only way this nomination is going to get through is if they try to simply jam it through. And I think, again, Mitch McConnell, if it was good enough to delay under President Obama, it’s good enough to delay under President Trump.

AMY GOODMAN: David, your wife serves on the same federal court as Judge Kavanaugh?

DAVID COLE: Yeah, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Any further comment?

DAVID COLE: No.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, in the last 15 seconds, Fatima Goss Graves, what are you going to be doing in these next months, the National Women’s Law Center?

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: We’re going all in. We believe that this is a fight that we can win. And the same way people counted out the ACA, we know that women will rise. They’ll be making the calls. They’ll be showing up at town halls. So people got to get ready.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you all for being with us. And of course we’ll continue to cover this process. David Cole, legal director of the ACLU. Cecile Richards, former head of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Rachel Tiven, head of Lambda Legal Defense. And Fatima Goss Graves, with the National Women’s Law Center.

That does it for our broadcast. A very happy birthday to Laura Gottesdiener! Democracy Now! is currently accepting applications for a full-time news producer position in New York City. You can visit democracynow.org to learn more and apply today.

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