U.S District Court Northern District of California Rejects Trump Administration’s Efforts to Obscure Evidence Regarding Zero Tolerance Policy

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By Melinda Kukaj

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The U.S. government’s efforts to obscure critical evidence from the public regarding the legal battle over the family separation policy at the border under the Trump Administration has been rejected by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

This decision was handed down by Magistrate Judge Kandis A. Westmore, and “marks a critical moment in the lawsuit filed by migrant families separated at the U.S. border in 2018, according to a statement issued by Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California and Keker, Van Nest & Peters, LLP.

The statement said the decision made by the court provides public disclosure of evidence that suggests that family separation was an intended outcome of the Zero Tolerance border policy, despite the claims the government made otherwise.

The lawyers said in their statement the “court’s requirement that the government release documents exposing the true intentions of high-level government officials in the design and execution of the Zero Tolerance policy.”

Plaintiffs’ lawyers said one new disclosure memorialized a discussion with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, stating, “we need to take away children.”

In a preliminary report detailing the findings of an investigation into the DOJ and DHS’s zero tolerance policy, DOJ Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz, according to plaintiffs, “underscored critical revelations, shedding light on the Department’s glaring lack of coordination and failure to grasp the profound impact of child separations in its planning of family unit adult prosecutions.”

Additionally, according to the preliminary report and plaintiffs, “he uncovered that top officials within the Justice Department were the ‘driving force’ behind the policy that tragically resulted in family separations.”

The lawsuit, P.G. v. United States, “centers around three plaintiff families who fled persecution in Central America, seeking asylum in the United States.”

Plaintiffs claim that “upon their arrival, the government forcibly separated the parents from their children without notice or explanation, subjecting them to weeks and months of isolation in inhumane detention conditions.”

In a statement following the Court’s decision, Victoria Petty, Staff Attorney at Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, said, “Throughout this litigation, the government has tried to gaslight the federal court and the public about its abhorrent family separation policy.

“We applaud the Court’s order, which will shed light on the recklessness and cruelty with which family separation was developed and carried out. With this order, the government can no longer pretend they didn’t intend to separate children from their families. We look forward to holding the government accountable at trial in May.”

The trial is set for May 6, and note plaintiffs’ lawyers, is an incredibly important step to unveiling the truth behind America’s family separation policy. Additionally, it is a crucial step towards acknowledging and fixing the harm done to the plaintiff families.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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