A coalition of 17 states filed suit in the U.S. District Court in Seattle on June 26, 2018 over President Trump’s family separation policy, arguing that it unconstitutionally infringes on parents’ rights and is motivated by “animus” toward Latinos. Specifically, the lawsuit asserts that President Trump’s policy violates Fifth Amendment guarantees of due process and equal protection, federal asylum laws and a federal statute called the Administrative Procedure Act.
Stating Trump’s policy as “abhorrent and indefensible,” the lawsuit argues that the administration’s move to separate more than 2,000 immigrant children from their parents has harmed the interests of the states’ residents and interferes with the states’ ability to protect children from abuse.
The suit is led by Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who painted it as part of a broader campaign to resist Trump administration initiatives.
“This case, like all our cases against this Administration, says something important about who we are as a people,” Ferguson said. “We will stand up for the Constitution, basic decency and fundamental American values.”
It’s unclear how pivotal the state-led litigation will be in challenging Trump’s family separation policy, which he purported to reverse in an executive order last week as outrage built over the growing number of border-crossing families being split up as adults were taken to court for criminal prosecution.
The American Civil Liberties Union (hereinafter “ACLU”) has already moved to use a pre-existing lawsuit to get a judge to force reunification of children separated from their families. Other cases brought on behalf of individual parents are pending. And Trump has acknowledged that to implement his plan to shift to family detention, a federal court will have to modify a longstanding consent decree to permit children to be held for more than 20 days.
In addition to Washington, New York, and California, the new suit is backed by Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, North Carolina, Delaware and the District of Columbia.
Spokespeople for the Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the suit.