WASHINGTON, D. C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today joined a coalition of 15 state attorneys general in a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s policy of separating families crossing the nation’s southern border. The attorneys general contend the policy violates the Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection, among other problems. The lawsuit, filed today in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington (state), was led by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
“President Trump’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy is not only cruel and discriminatory, but also unconstitutional,” said Attorney General Racine. “Last week’s executive order raised more questions than it answered, and it does nothing to protect these families’ due process rights. Our lawsuit demands that President Trump comply with the law and clearly articulate a plan to reunite parents with their children.”
On April 6, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new “zero-tolerance” policy on the United States’ southern border. Instead of making case-specific evaluations of individual cases, respecting due process rights and family integrity, the Trump Administration began prosecuting all possible immigration crimes and detaining all accused adults—even those with legitimate asylum claims. The intended and acknowledged effect of this policy has been the separation of children from their parents. The Trump Administration has been clear that the purpose of the forced separation policy is not to protect children, but rather to deter potential immigrants from coming to the United States.
While President Trump last week signed an executive order that he claims ends the separations, it does not end the underlying policy. The attorneys general contend that the order does nothing to reunify families already torn apart by the Trump Administration’s policy, and is riddled with so many loopholes as to be meaningless.
The states’ lawsuit challenges the administration’s policy on several grounds:
- Due process violations: The suit alleges that the Trump Administration has violated the constitutional rights of the parents and children by separating them as a matter of course – and without any finding that the parent poses a threat to the children. In addition, the policy deprives them of their fundamental liberty without a hearing.
- Unconstitutional discrimination: The attorneys general argue that the policy violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection, because it targets only people crossing our southern border, and is motivated by animus toward immigrants from Latin America.
- Unlawfully enacted: The states also allege that this policy violates the federal Administrative Procedure Act because it was created and implemented without proper vetting, and further allege the Trump Administration has been violating U.S. asylum laws by turning people away at ports of entry.
The multi-state complaint filed today is available here.
In addition to the District and Washington state, the states joining the lawsuit include: California, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.