U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw pressed the Trump administration at a hearing on Friday, July 13, on the failure of the Departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security to reunite refugee children with their parents.
Chris Meekins, the Deputy Assistant Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary for Preparedness and Response, was questioned about the government’s failure to reunite nearly half of the first group of children separated from their families at the border by last Tuesday’s deadline.
Meekins said that the department was acting as quickly as possible to implement the order. However, when Sabraw read a written declaration from Meekins, he expressed outrage at the contradictions contained in it. In his declaration, Meekins wrote that he did not believe that “the placing of children into such situations is consistent with the mission of HHS or my core values.”
The judge responded in his order that “It is clear from Mr. Meekins’s declaration that HHS either does not understand the court’s orders or is acting in defiance of them. At a minimum, it appears he is attempting to provide cover to defendants for their own conduct in the practice of family separation, and the lack of foresight and infrastructure necessary to remedy the harms caused by that practice.”
Sabraw, a Republican appointee, is the second judge in a week to find that the Trump administration is acting in disregard of established law in its attack on refugee families. A few days earlier, District Court Judge Dolly Gee wrote that the Trump administration refused to abide by the Flores agreement on the treatment of detained children and that the administration’s lawyers “seek to light a match to the Flores Agreement and ask this Court to upend the parties’ agreement by judicial fiat.”
Sabraw ordered the administration to present a list of those children still separated by today, July 16, and that they complete vetting by Thursday.