United States District Court Rejects Government’s Attempt to Conceal Damning Evidence from Public Scrutiny in Family Separation Lawsuit


MEDIA CONTACT: Raya Steier, rsteier@lccrsf.org, C:530-723-2426


San Francisco, Calif- Last Thursday, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California rejected the U.S. government’s efforts to conceal crucial evidence from the public eye in the ongoing legal battle over the Trump administration’s family separation policy. The decision, handed down by Magistrate Judge Kandis A. Westmore of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, marks a critical moment in the lawsuit filed by migrant families separated at the U.S. border in 2018. The Court’s decision provides for the public disclosure of evidence suggesting that family separation was an intended outcome of the Zero Tolerance policy, despite the government’s claims otherwise.

At the heart of last week’s order is the Court’s requirement that the government release documents exposing the true intentions of high-level government officials in the design and execution of the Zero Tolerance policy. “We need to take away children,” says one newly-public meeting note memorializing a discussion with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In a preliminary report detailing the findings of an investigation into the DOJ and DHS’s zero tolerance policy, Michael E. Horowitz, Inspector General of the DOJ, underscored critical revelations, shedding light on the Department’s glaring lack of coordination and failure to grasp the profound impact of child separations in its planning of family unit adult prosecutions. Moreover, he uncovered that top officials within the Justice Department were the “driving force” behind the policy that tragically resulted in family separations.

The lawsuit, P.G. v. United States, centers around three plaintiff families who fled persecution in Central America, seeking asylum in the United States. Upon their arrival, the government forcibly separated the parents from their children without notice or explanation, subjecting them to weeks and months of isolation in inhumane detention conditions.

In a statement following the Court’s decision, Victoria Petty, Staff Attorney at Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, which represents the plaintiff families, emphasized the significance of the order: “Throughout this litigation, the government has tried to gaslight the federal court and the public about its abhorrent family separation policy. We applaud the Court’s order, which will shed light on the recklessness and cruelty with which family separation was developed and carried out. With this order, the government can no longer pretend they didn’t intend to separate children from their families. We look forward to holding the government accountable at trial in May.”

The eagerly anticipated trial on May 6, 2024, is a crucial step to unveil the truth behind our nation’s family separation policy, and a bold stride towards acknowledging and remedying the profound harm inflicted upon the plaintiff families. 

The plaintiff families are represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, and Keker, Van Nest & Peters, LLP.

The order can be found here