- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 27, 2020

A top Homeland Security official on Tuesday lashed out at a federal judge he said will soon order the department to separate illegal immigrant children from their parents in detention facilities.

Ken Cuccinelli, the No. 2 man at the department, said they want to keep families together in detention facilities “but an activist judge is preparing to order the separation of families in DHS custody.”

Mr. Cuccinelli was responding after Judge Dolly M. Gee, an Obama appointee to a federal court that sits in Los Angeles, signaled last week that she is not satisfied with how quickly children who come across the border as part of families are being released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

She ordered the government to go back and negotiate with advocates for illegal immigrant children on a solution, and also ordered releases as quickly as possible.

“Defendants shall continue to release Class Members from their custody without unnecessary delay in a manner consistent with the FSA and the Court’s prior Orders, and consistent with concern for the particular vulnerability of minors, especially during the pandemic,” Judge Gee wrote in an order Monday.



She is overseeing a key class-action lawsuit that’s been going on for 25 years dealing with illegal immigrant children.

The plaintiffs say that if the children are released, the parents should also be released.

Homeland Security says that goes beyond the court’s jurisdiction, and if Judge Gee orders the children released the parents will stay in custody.

Mr. Cuccinelli said ICE won’t release the children without a specific court order, which he said will make clear it’s Judge Gee demanding the families be separated.

“DHS will not assist in this process without a court order,” he said. “Under the judge’s new policy, countless children may be released into the United States without lawful status and without their parents. Instead of creating new loopholes, we should be enforcing our laws.”

Peter Schey, the lawyer who represents the children in the case, said Mr.Cuccinelli was “either abysmally ignorant about or intentionally disregarding what Judge Gee has ordered.”

He said ICE is not properly advising parents about their rights about having their children released, and Judge Gee has ordered them to do so.

“Parents have the right to decide what is in their children’s best interest, not Mr. Cuccinelli or even Judge Gee,” he said. “If parents are not released with their children, the blame for that squarely rests with Mr.Cuccinelli and his agency, not Judge Gee.”

Amnesty International USA, which has argued for the children in the case, called Mr. Cuccinelli’s statement “pure disinformation.”

Family separations are a very touchy issue for the Trump administration, which facilitated separation of thousands of children in 2018 as a result of its zero tolerance border policy.

Under that policy the parents were prosecuted for illegal entry, a federal crime, and since there are no family jails in the federal justice system, the children were taken away. But the parents were usually released after a couple days, and the government lacked the process to reunite them with their children.

President Trump issued an executive order limiting family separations in June 2018.

Over the next year the rate of illegal immigration by families soared, hitting record numbers in 2019.

Much of that surge traces back to rulings by Judge Gee, who is perhaps the most powerful figure in immigration policy in the country, save for Mr. Trump.

Her 2015 decision to update the Flores Settlement sparked the border surges of 2018 and 2019, drawing hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrant families — and fraudsters posing as families — to the U.S.

Some children died during the journey, others were abused or pressed into forced labor once in the U.S.

About 400,000 were processed and released into the U.S., most of them disappearing into the shadows, Homeland Security officials said.

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