Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson plans on tackling the separation of immigrant families in his 27th lawsuit against the Trump administration. At a press conference outside of the Federal Detention Center, SeaTac on June 21, Ferguson announced that he would lead a multi-state legal challenge against the Trump Administration over its “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which takes children from their parents when they illegally cross the border.
The lawsuit, which will be filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, alleges that the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy—and an executive order signed Wednesday that proposedly reverses it—is unlawful. Separating adults from their kids without having proof that the parents are unfit to care for their children breaches the Constitution, according to the proposed lawsuit. Ferguson’s case also zeros in on the discriminatory nature of targeting families who enter through the U.S.’s southern border, and no where else in the country.
“This is a rogue, cruel, and unconstitutional policy,” Ferguson said in a statement. “We’re going to put a stop to it.”
Maryland, California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and New Jersey are expected to join the lawsuit once it is filed in a few business days, according to the Seattle Times. Ferguson’s office had planned on filing the lawsuit on Thursday, but they needed to update it in light of Trump’s executive order signed on Wednesday that was designed to reverse the family separation policy.
However, Ferguson found that the executive order falls short of ending the “zero tolerance” immigration policy. The order instead ends the practice of separating thousands of children from their parents at the border by indefinitely detaining the families together, and it doesn’t offer plans to reunite families with the over 2,000 children who are already in custody. At Thursday’s press conference outside of the federal prison where parents are currently in custody, Ferguson called it “unlikely” that a federal judge would approve of children being indefinitely detained, according to a statement.
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) Executive Director Jorge Barón said that he also plans to file a lawsuit on behalf of the parents detained in Washington state, and hopes to parlay it into a class action lawsuit on behalf of all of the immigrant adults separated from their kids throughout the country. NWIRP’s litigation will address the family separation, and that the adults in SeaTac’s federal prison have been held in custody for over a month without being screened for asylum.
“Some people may have gotten the erroneous impression that somehow the family separation policy has ended now,” Barón told Seattle Weekly on Thursday evening, “and the key thing is that as we’re talking right now, there’s at least 45 parents detained at either the Northwest Detention Center, or the Federal Detention Center here in our region, and they’re still not with their children. So as far as we’re concerned, the family separation is ongoing, and until that gets resolved, we’re going to continue fighting back.” Barón also criticized Wednesday’s executive order, calling the proposal to indefinitely detain families together a “step in a different, wrong direction,” as NWIRP would prefer that the families not be detained at all.
It is currently unknown where the separated children of the about 40 mothers who are held in custody in Washington are located. Governor Jay Inslee and Ferguson sent a letter to the Trump administration on June 7 inquiring about the “zero tolerance” policy, including the location of the separated children and who is caring for them, and when the women can expect to be reunited with their kids. After receiving no response, they sent a follow-up letter on June 18 that reiterated their inquiries, and also asked that “the Trump Administration stop lying about the family separation policy” by claiming that it is necessary to separate families seeking asylum.
“Presumably, the President is lying about the origins of this policy because even he recognizes that it is morally indefensible,” Inslee and Ferguson wrote in their joint letter. “But these lies cannot erase the stain of what this administration is doing. We cannot understand how you or the President can sleep at night knowing what is being done on your orders. The least you can do is be honest with the American people about who chose to implement this policy.”