Cuomo Intends to Sue Trump Administration Over Separation of Families Policy

Cuomo claims constitutional rights of children and families are being violated

Tom Puckett
June 19, 2018 - 3:55 pm
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Albany, NY (WBEN) Governor Cuomo says New York intends to file a multi-agency lawsuit against the Trump Administration on the grounds that the federal government is violating the Constitutional rights of thousands of immigrant children and their parents who have been separated at the border. We now know of more than 70 children who are staying in federal shelters in New York State and that number is expected to increase as other facilities are contacted. The Governor is directing the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the Department of Health and the Office of Children and Family Services to commence legal action against the federal government's "Separation of Families" policy. Following the callous and inhumane treatment of immigrant families at the border, New York is suing to protect the health and well-being of children being held at least 10 different facilities across the state and at others throughout the nation.

"The Trump Administration's policy to tear apart families is a moral failing and a human tragedy," Governor Cuomo said. "We will not tolerate the Constitutional rights of children and their parents being violated by our federal government.  New York will act and file suit to end this callous and deliberate attack on immigrant communities, and end this heartless policy once and for all."  

The Governor announced that New York plans to sue the federal government for:

Violating the Constitutional Rights of Children and Families

Parents are being separated from their children at the border as a result of the Trump Administration's new "zero tolerance" prosecution of the minor federal offense of improper entry into the country. In prior administrations, families who appeared with children at the border would be processed together and released with a date to appear in court. Now, parents, many of whom are seeking to protect their children and families from gang violence, are being systematically detained, separated from their children, and, in some cases, deported with no meaningful opportunity to participate in making decisions concerning the care and custody of their children. Yet these parents are still afforded rights under the United States Constitution to familial integrity and to decide to exercise their parental rights in New York State.

Violation of the Terms of the Flores Settlement

The 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement set national standards regarding the detention, release, and treatment of all children in immigration detention and prioritizes the principle of family unity. It requires that juvenile immigrant detainees be released from custody without unnecessary delay, or when no appropriate placement is available, be held in the least restrictive setting appropriate to age and special needs. The Flores Settlement explicitly requires family reunification with a clear preference for custody by a parent, which supports New York's call for ending the "zero tolerance" policy.

Callous Policies Based on the Outrageous Government Conduct Doctrine

The Supreme Court has asserted that "it may someday be presented with a situation in which the conduct of law enforcement agents is so outrageous that due process principles would absolutely bar the government from invoking judicial processes to obtain a conviction." Clearly that day has come. New York State will challenge the federal government's zero-tolerance policy which leads to the unnecessary and inhumane separation of families and detention of children and which serves no legitimate national security or public safety purpose.

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