Advocates also say in the federal court in Los Angeles that immigrant children, who were separated by US immigration officials from their parents at the US-Mexican border, are being given poor food and face insults in custody.
A federal judge temporarily barred the US government on Monday from the rapid deportation of immigrant parents reunited with their children, while a court considers the impact on children’s rights to seek asylum.
The government is working to meet a court order to reunite around 2,550 children who were separated by US immigration officials from their parents at the US-Mexican border.
The families had been separated as part of a broader crackdown on illegal immigration by the administration of President Donald Trump, sparking an international outcry. The president ordered the practice stopped on June 20.
The American Civil Liberties Union said in court papers on Monday that, once reunited, immigrant parents who face deportation should have a week to decide if they want to leave their child in the United States to pursue asylum separately.
“A one-week stay is a reasonable and appropriate remedy to ensure that the unimaginable trauma these families have suffered does not turn even worse because parents made an uninformed decision about the fate of their child,” the rights group wrote.
US District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego asked the government to respond and set a July 24 date for the next hearing. In the meantime, he halted rapid deportations.
In a related lawsuit filed on Monday in New York City, the Legal Aid Society sought a federal court order requiring US immigration officials to give 48 hours advance notice of planned family reunifications, allowing parents a better chance to consult with lawyers about asylum or other options for their children.
At Monday’s hearing in California, the judge pressed back on a suggestion by a government attorney that quick deportations aided reunifications by creating more room for families in detention.
Also Monday, advocates said in federal court in Los Angeles that immigrant children in government custody are being given poor food, kept in unsanitary conditions and face insults and threats.
The allegations came amid a long-running effort by attorneys to have a court-appointed monitor oversee the US government's compliance with a decades-old settlement governing the treatment of immigrant children caught on the border.
Attorneys interviewed immigrant parents and children in June and July about their experiences in Border Patrol facilities, family detention and a youth shelter.
They described much of the testimony as "shocking and atrocious."
Families described meals of frozen sandwiches and spoiled food, overflowing toilets and guards yelling at them and kicking them while they slept.
Children said they were hungry and scared when their parents were taken away.