The ACLU claims Trump administration is using loopholes to continue to separate migrant children from their parents

Lawyers for the ACLU alleged in court on Tuesday that the Trump administration has been using a legal loophole in order to justify the continued separation of over 900 migrant children from their parents in the past year.

In June 2018, a court order required the government to curb its child separation policy except in situations where "the adults pose a risk to the child because of their criminal record, a communicable disease, abuse, or neglect," The Washington Post reports. But on Tuesday, the ACLU claimed that children have been separated from their parents for extremely minor offenses, including a parent having an outstanding destruction of property warrant of an alleged $5 in damage, or a traffic violation.

"They're taking what was supposed to be a narrow exception for cases where the parent was genuinely a danger to the child and using it as a loophole to continue family separation," ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt told The Washington Post in an interview. "What everyone understands intuitively and what the medical evidence shows, this will have a devastating effect on the children and possibly cause permanent damage to these children, not to mention the toll on the parents."

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The ACLU claims a total of 911 children were separated from their parents between the June 2018 court order and June 29, 2019. Last year, some 2,700 children were separated from their parents between May and the end of June, when President Trump ordered officials to follow a policy of "family unity." On June 26, a federal judge additionally ordered the Trump administration to reunite the families that had been separated.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan has characterized family separations as being "extraordinarily rare" and emphasized to the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee that when separations do happen, they are carefully and compassionately overseen.

"This is in the interest of the child," he said.

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Jeva Lange

Jeva Lange was the executive editor at She formerly served as The Week's deputy editor and culture critic. She is also a contributor to Screen Slate, and her writing has appeared in The New York Daily News, The Awl, Vice, and Gothamist, among other publications. Jeva lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.