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Office of the Vermont Attorney General

Vermont Files Suit to End Child Separation

June 26, 2018

CONTACT:    Charity Clark, Chief of Staff, (802) 828-3737

Attorney General Donovan joins 17 other AGs in lawsuit alleging Trump Administration policy is unconstitutional

Attorney General T.J. Donovan today announced that Vermont has joined a multistate lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s policy of forced family separation at the U.S. southern border. A total of 17 states and the District of Columbia joined the lawsuit. The basis of the lawsuit is that the policy violates due process and equal protection, along with the Administrative Procedures Act and asylum laws. The lawsuit was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

“This policy is not only unconstitutional, it’s simply wrong,” Attorney General Donovan said. “Our country has always been a beacon of hope and safety. And our constitution entitles all people to equal protection under the law.”

The lawsuit alleges 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 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. Vermont and the other plaintiffs also contend that the Administration’s policy is a direct threat to their sovereign interests in ensuring the safety and well-being of children within their borders.

The lawsuit requests that the Court force the Administration to follow asylum laws by ending the practice of refusing to accept asylum applications at the border. It also requests that the family separation policy be declared unconstitutional and that families be reunited. It asks the Court to prohibit the Administration from placing children in unlicensed facilities or detaining them for long periods of time. In addition, it asks the Court to prohibit the Administration from conditioning family reunification on an agreement not to seek asylum.

Along with Vermont, also joining the lawsuit are California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and Virginia in demanding an immediate change in policy.

Last modified: June 26, 2018