Federal immigration officials have separated more than 900 children from their parents in the past year, some based on claims of abuse or gang ties, the American Civil Liberties Union charged in a court filing Tuesday, reports the Wall Street Journal. The ACLU said the average age of separated children was nine and that 185 of the children were younger than five. Some were younger than a year. Authorities have always had discretion to separate children from their parents if they are believed to be at risk. The ACLU asked that specific guidelines be created to limit separations. The group sued the Trump administration last year to stop the government from separating thousands of migrant children from their parents after illegal border crossings.
The administration was pursuing a zero-tolerance policy that sought to prosecute nearly all adult illegal border crossers. That policy was announced in April 2018 and later expanded to include parents traveling with their children as part of a broader effort to curb the flow of Central American families crossing the border illegally to ask for asylum. President Trump issued an executive order abandoning the policy in June 2018 after an outcry from immigration advocates and lawyers, Democratic lawmakers and some Republicans. A federal judge in San Diego barred the government from separating families as a matter of policy. More than 2,000 children were separated during the two months that the separation policy was in place. The ACLU cited separations based on a parent’s alleged gang ties, which the civil-liberties group doubted. One case involved a father from El Salvador accused of being a gang member from Honduras. The ACLU said the man said he never had been to Honduras.