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New York Plans to Sue Trump Over Child Separation at Border

Fortune logo Fortune 6/19/2018 Glenn Fleishman
Andrew Cuomo wearing a suit and tie: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks at the HELP USA 30th Anniversary Event in New York City on March 16, 2017. © Monica Schipper—Getty Images New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks at the HELP USA 30th Anniversary Event in New York City on March 16, 2017.

New York State plans to sue the Trump administration for allegedly violating the rights of children and parents separated at the border, according to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The governor has directed several agencies to file suit based on their various responsibilities for the well being of children, families, and the disabled, and for public health. In a statement, he decried the “callous and deliberate attack on immigrant communities.”

New York officials say they know of over 70 children separated from their families who are housed in federal shelters in the state. But a survey of all facilities in New York isn’t complete.

The state plans to cite violations of the Constitution, laws, and legal settlements. This includes the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement, which binds federal authorities to specific standards about the detention of minors. The settlement requires children be released without unnecessary delay first to parents or other adult relatives. The state argues that this by itself requires the end of the recently implemented policy.

The Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy now subjects anyone found to have entered the U.S. without proper process to arrest and prosecution. Children can’t be held in the same detention conditions as their parents, allowing the administration leverage for its border wall and other changes in immigration it favors.

The administration has repeatedly said that ending family separation would require a legislative change, but there is no support for that position. The administration has suffered widespread condemnation for taking children from parents and family members, including among staunch Republican and Trump supporters and all four living former First Ladies.

Gov. Cuomo also sent an open letter today to Vice President Mike Pence, calling for an end to the policy and noting “your administration’s actions will have devastating long-term consequences for these children.”

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