Federal court to Trump: End border separations, reunite families

Image: Immigrant children now housed in a tent encampment under the new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration are shown walking in single file at the facility near the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas
Immigrant children now housed in a tent encampment under the new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration are shown walking in single file at the...

One of the reasons Donald Trump has railed against the federal judiciary is that a variety of courts have been quick to reject key elements of his agenda. The Republican White House, for example, was forced to rewrite the president's Muslim ban -- twice -- following legal defeats.

Similarly, judges have rejected Trump's order on "sanctuary cities" and his efforts to deny DACA protections to Dreamers.

Overnight, the president suffered yet another setback, and this time, it's his "zero tolerance" policy that's in trouble.

A federal judge in San Diego ordered immigration agents on Tuesday to stop separating migrant parents and children who have crossed the border from Mexico and to work to reunite families that have already been split up while in custody.U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw issued a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed by an anonymous woman from the Democratic Republic of Congo and backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which pursued it as a class action as U.S. authorities began a "zero tolerance" policy in early May.

It's been a week since Trump signed an executive order on family separations, but as part of this case in California, the administration's attorneys conceded that the government has not yet reunited roughly 2,000 families. In fact, there are still questions about whether the administration is fully aware of where the isolated children are.

"The government readily keeps track of personal property of detainees in criminal and immigration proceedings," Sabraw wrote in his 24-page order. "Money, important documents, and automobiles, to name a few, are routinely catalogued, stored, tracked and produced upon a detainee's release, at all levels — state and federal, citizen and alien. Yet, the government has no system in place to keep track of, provide effective communication with, and promptly produce alien children. The unfortunate reality is that under the present system migrant children are not accounted for with the same efficiency and accuracy as property. Certainly, that cannot satisfy the requirements of due process."

Sabraw, in case you were curious, was nominated to the federal bench by George W. Bush.

As part of the judge's order, the administration must stop separating families (absent evidence of an unfit parent), reunite children under the age of 5 with their families within 14 days, reunite children over the age of 5 with their families within 30 days, and allow parents to speak with their kids by telephone within 10 days.

It's a safe bet that the White House will appeal the ruling, which means the case would go to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals -- generally seen as the nation's most progressive appellate bench.

From there, the case could end up at the U.S. Supreme Court. Remind me, how reliable is the high court's conservative majority in cases like these?