A federal judge in California ruled on Tuesday that the Trump administration must stop separating migrant children from their parents at the US-Mexico border. The judge, Dana M. Sabraw, also ordered that all children be reunited with their parents within 30 days.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order ending his administration’s policy of separating families last week, but the order did not call for the immediate reunification of children already separated from their parents. Since Trump’s order, about 500 migrant children have been reunited with their parents, but more than 2,000 children remain in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), far from their parents.

Take ActionReunite All Separated Families and Support Foreign Aid to End the Root Cause of the Migration Crisis

On Saturday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released its plan for reuniting families. According to DHS, families will only be reunited once parents’ deportation proceedings are completed — which can take months or even years.

Sabraw’s ruling on the case, which was brought forward by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), puts a limit on how long the migrant children can be separated from their parents — just 30 days. The ruling’s requirements conflict with DHS’ plan and the order is likely to be contested, resulting in a legal battle with the Justice Department, The New York Times reported.

Under the present system, migrant children are not accounted for with the same efficiency and accuracy as property.

The order also makes exceptions for younger children, calling for children under the age of 5 to be reunited with their parents within two weeks of being separated. And regardless of their age, all children must be allowed to speak to their parents within 10 days.

Read more: How You Can Still Help Migrant Families Being Separated at the Border

Sabraw criticized the Trump administration’s implementation of its “zero tolerance” policy on prosecuting illegal immigration, which led to the practice of separating families at the border, calling the current situation a “chaotic circumstance of the government’s own making.”

“The unfortunate reality is that under the present system, migrant children are not accounted for with the same efficiency and accuracy as property,” Sabraw said in his ruling.

The judge’s order says that children can only be separated from their parents in the event that their parents pose an immediate danger to the children, and adds that adults cannot be deported from the US without their children.

"This ruling is an enormous victory for parents and children who thought they may never see each other again,” Lee Gelernt, the deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, who argued the case, said in a statement. “Tears will be flowing in detention centers across the country when the families learn they will be reunited." 

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Federal Judge Orders Trump to Reunite Migrant Families Within 30 Days

By Daniele Selby  and  Erica Sánchez