Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin today announced his intention to join with fellow attorneys general in filing a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration policy of forced separation on the U.S. southern border. The lawsuit will be filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.
The group of attorneys general had been working together to mount a legal challenge on the policy when the President signed the Executive Order earlier this week.
"The President's Executive Order was nothing more than a public relations stunt to dissolve the growing criticism of ripping children away from their parents. As we looked at the legal and practical implications of the Order, it was clear that it effectively changed nothing, and as such, we are moving forward with our legal challenge," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "This policy is immoral and, as we expect to successfully prove, illegal."
The states' lawsuit will allege the Administration has violated the constitutional due process 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. The policy is also irrationally discriminatory, in violation of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection, because it targets only people crossing our southern border, and not anyone crossing the northern border or entering the United States elsewhere.
The states will also argue that this policy once again violates the Administrative Procedure Act, because it is arbitrary and capricious, and that the Administration has been violating U.S. asylum laws by turning people away at ports of entry.
Earlier this week, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and 20 other Democratic Attorneys General sent a letter to United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen demanding an end to the cruel and illegal tactic of separating children from their parents as families lawfully seek asylum in the United States and protection from domestic, sexual and gang violence. It is estimated that more than 2,000 children have been separated from their immigrant parents.
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, detaining all accused adults, even those with a legitimate asylum claim. The intended and acknowledged effect of this policy has been the separation of parents and children at the border.