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Pennsylvania

Shapiro to join state attorneys general in suit against Trump border policies

Debra Erdley
| Thursday, June 21, 2018, 5:09 p.m.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro at a press conference in Lower Burrell on Monday to announced charges of child sex abuse against a former Catholic priest.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro at a press conference in Lower Burrell on Monday to announced charges of child sex abuse against a former Catholic priest.

President Trump's executive order ending the separation of families caught crossing the U.S. border illegally falls short of solving the problems the policy created, a group of state attorneys general charged Thursday.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said he and eight other attorneys general will file a multi-state federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court contesting the policy.

“The federal government is treating children like prisoners; detaining them behind chain-link cage fencing, and cutting off from communication with their parents. This is unconscionable treatment,” Shapiro said. “In Pennsylvania, a parent would be arrested if they treated their children this way.”

The attorneys general said the order Trump signed Wednesday does not address the reunification of families already separated by the Trump Administration's policy. Nor, does it specify an amount to be appropriated for reunification efforts or a timeline to carry out the order.

Many of the estimated 2,000 plus children who were separated from their parents in recent weeks are being housed in massive shelters near the Texas border. But smaller groups have been shipped to various shelters across the country, including one in Allegheny County.

Shapiro said 50 Central American children aged 4-17 are being housed in the Holy Family Institute in Emsworth. The Catholic social services organization that is under contract to the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement previously housed juveniles who were swept up by authorities when thousands of unaccompanied minors came across the southern border in 2014.

The state attorneys general say the family separation policy violated the due process rights of parents to be together with their children, as well as other constitutional and statutory claims. Other states whose attorneys general are joining the suit include: Washington, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico and Oregon.

Their lawsuit is just the most recent reaction to heart wrenching photographs and video of young children being separated from their parents under the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy. The president's executive order altered that policy to end the separation of families.

Earlier this week the policy prompted blowback from governors in New York, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Colorado, Delaware, New Hampshire and Rhode Island who said they were withdrawing their National Guard troops from border duty or vowing to refuse future deployments to the border.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said he would stand by his fellow governors, even though Pennsylvania had yet to receive any requests for National Guard assistance.

Debra Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com or via Twitter @deberdley_trib

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