Ferguson asks court to accelerate family separation case

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Attorney General Bob Ferguson has asked a federal judge to order the federal government to provide details about and access to victims of the Trump administration’s family separation policy on an expedited schedule. Last week, Ferguson led a coalition of 18 attorneys general in filing a lawsuit seeking to end the family separation policy permanently.

The motion for expedited discovery is necessary because hundreds of separated parents are in federal custody and the administration can move them to other facilities at any time without notice. The motion asks the court to order the federal government to cooperate in facilitating access to detained parents and to report to the court on the progress of such efforts.

In support of the motion, the states included declarations from parents and interviews with children separated by immigration officials as a result of the policy. The states also filed other declarations from immigration rights workers, elected officials and medical experts. The motion includes 99 declarations in all, and they can be found herehere and here.

A mother who fled Honduras after receiving death threats, currently held in Washington, described the experience of being separated from her 6-year-old son shortly after crossing the border: “From there, my son Jelsin and I were separated. I was not told where he was being taken. They only told me he would be a ward of the state. To calm my son down, I told him it would only be for three days, although I really did not know. We had never been apart.”

She was not able to speak to her son for almost a month. When she did contact him, she said, “He was only able to say a few words. He was just crying. … I cannot express the pain I have felt being apart from him.”

“The Trump administration’s family separation policy is not over – it continues to harm thousands of parents and children,” said Ferguson. “The gut-wrenching stories we have heard from families demonstrate just how much it violates basic decency and fundamental American values. The policy also violates the Constitution, and I will continue to fight to put an end to it.”

The motion for expedited discovery, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, requests that Judge Marsha Pechman order several actions to ensure that the Attorney General’s Office can collect information in a timely fashion.

If the judge grants the motion, it will require the federal government to respond to the states’ requests for information on an accelerated timeline and to cooperate with state requests to interview parents in federal detention. Some states have faced procedural difficulties or been denied access to federal detention centers and other federal locations that house affected immigrants.

Ferguson also requests weekly status conferences with the court during the period of expedited discovery.

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