In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Late last month, a federal judge in Washington gave the Trump administration about a week to show it was acting in good faith to follow a California court order to reunite immigrant families — and particularly to make progress in reuniting three Central American political asylum seekers held in ICE detention in South Texas, who filed a lawsuit after their children were taken from them under the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.

If the government did not act on its own, U.S. District Judge James Friedman warned, he would be forced to issue a temporary restraining order.

On Thursday night, lawyers for the parents told Judge Friedman that while the government had given the parents more information about their children and some had been granted more phone contact — both demands in their lawsuit — they needed the court’s intervention.

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Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar insisted to reporters on a conference call on Thursday that his agency was ready to meet the looming deadline imposed by federal courts for reuniting the thousands of immigrant children in his custody with their parents.

But later that same evening, the Trump administration asked the California judge overseeing the case for an extension, claiming the tight timeline is putting them at risk of violating their “statutory obligations to ensure the safety of children before transferring them out of HHS custody.”

The government is specifically claiming in a new filing ahead of Friday afternoon’s status conference in the case that they do not have enough time to verify parent-child relationships “using DNA swab testing” and lack the time for ICE to conduct criminal background checks on the parents.

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Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters on a conference call on Thursday that his department will meet the deadlines imposed by federal courts to reunify thousands of immigrant children who were taken from their families and detained in separate facilities, but admitted they have yet to send a single child to rejoin their parents in immigration detention.

On the call, an exasperated-sounding Azar characterized the immigrant parents as criminals for bringing their children in the first place, dismissed reports of abuse in his detention centers as “the theater of politics,” and repeatedly suggested that immigrants claiming to be parents are in fact unrelated to the children taken from them.

Still, Azar insisted his agency would comply with the court’s order.

“We have a plan in place to get this job done,” he said.

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A federal judge in Washington ruled Monday that the Trump administration is violating its own policy by uniformly denying parole to asylum-seekers who have passed their “credible fear” interviews — a key step in the asylum process.

In the decision, the court sided with the immigrants who brought the class action and ordered the Trump administration to restore the practice of granting fair, individual parole hearings to asylum-seekers who have passed that initial threshold. Prevailing at the parole hearing means that an asylum-seeker is released from detention and allowed to remain in the country pending a decision on their asylum petition, a process that can take several years.

“To mandate that ICE provide these baseline procedures to those entering our country–individuals who have often fled violence and persecution to seek safety on our shores–is no great judicial leap,” U.S. District Judge James Boasberg observed dryly.

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The Trump administration’s approval of Kentucky’s strict Medicaid work requirement, set to go into effect July 1, was vacated on Friday by a federal judge in Washington D.C. and sent back to the Department of Health and Human Services for reconsideration.

In a sweeping ruling striking down the entirety of Kentucky’s Medicaid waiver, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg sided with the dozen-plus low-income Kentuckians who had challenged the new rules, and said that the Trump administration acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner by approving them.

“The Secretary never adequately considered whether Kentucky HEALTH would in fact help the state furnish medical assistance to its citizens, a central objective of Medicaid,” Boasberg wrote, later adding that HHS “entirely failed to consider Kentucky’s estimate that 95,000 persons would leave its Medicaid rolls during the 5-year project.”

The HHS Secretary’s failure to acknowledge the likely coverage losses the rules would trigger, the judge wrote, “gives the Court little reason to think that he seriously grappled with the bottom-line impact on healthcare.”

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A group of legal and immigrant rights advocates filed a new class action suit on Friday against the Trump administration, challenging an array of policies related to the treatment of unaccompanied minor immigrants.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Los Angeles, seeks to end the administration’s policy of indefinitely detaining immigrant children, subjecting the children to forced medication without their parents’ consent, denying them of access to attorneys, and the denying or delay their release to family members or vetted sponsors.

While many lawsuits have been filed challenging the Trump administration’s recent treatment of immigrant families, this new class action is the first to focus solely on the rights of the minor children who either came to the U.S. unaccompanied or were separated from their relatives upon arrival. In seeking class action status for the lawsuit, the plaintiffs alleged that “hundreds” of “predominantly indigent, non-English-speaking children…are being denied basic fairness” in the immigration system.

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As federal courts across the United States wrestle with the constitutionality of President Trump’s mass-separation of immigrant parents and children, some immigrant advocacy groups are turning to international legal bodies to force the Trump administration to disclose its plans for reuniting the families, carry them out as soon as possible, and cease from separating any more families going forward.

Several legal and civil rights groups have filed an Emergency Request for Precautionary Measures at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights — part of the Organization of American States (OAS) — on behalf of a group of immigrant parents whose children were taken from them. On June 22, the commission demanded the U.S. government disclose the location and physical and emotional status of the parents and the children, updates on the reunification process, and the justification for separating the children from their parents in the first place.

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Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement will let President Trump drastically reshape the Supreme Court, and the absence of his crucial swing vote may usher in major changes in the legal landscape on a number of key issues.

Trump has already made it clear that he will pick a Kennedy replacement from a list of 25 potential nominees released by the White House last year. It’s highly unlikely that Kennedy’s successor will be in his tradition of a more moderate, center-right influence on the court’s conservative wing. Rather, it seems more probable that Trump — who will only need Republican votes to get his nominee confirmed in the Senate — will pick a judge in the mold of Neil Gorsuch, his first Supreme Court pick who has emerged as far-right voice on the court.

What does this shift mean for the major questions that make their way to the Supreme Court’s doorstep? A look at the issues where Kennedy wielded major influence:

Abortion Rights

This is the area of law that could be most dramatically remade due to Kennedy’s departure. Kennedy signed on to a number of decisions upholding Roe v. Wade, which said abortion was a constitutional right. Most recently, he voted with the court’s liberals to block states from imposing onerous and unnecessary regulations on abortion clinics which seemed geared at shutting those clinics down.

If Roe v. Wade is not overturned outright, expect it to become much easier for states to impose extreme restrictions on access to abortion. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, then it’s only matter of time that a large swath of states ban the practice.

Remaking this area of jurisprudence is a top priority for conservative activists, many of whom have the ear of the President has he selects his nominee. Trump himself promised on the campaign trail that he would appoint “pro-life” justices.

LGBT Rights

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, was perhaps his best known opinion, and he joined the liberals in previous key decisions that advanced LGBT equality.

Even if a post-Kennedy court doesn’t overturn Obergefell, there are other ways it can turn back the clock on LGBT rights. Though Kennedy declined to reject this term outright a baker’s argument that he can discriminate against gay wedding cake seekers, the decision he and six other justices joined was only narrowly in the baker’s favor and did not make a sweeping judgment on whether business are allowed to deny LGBT people services.

The strategy to roll back gay rights has already began to look like the tactics of the anti-abortion movement, with social conservatives employed a “death by a 1,000 cuts” approach of passing state laws allowing certain forms of discrimination against LGBT people. Kennedy’s successor is less likely than him to get in their way.

Separation of Church and State

Kennedy has swung between the liberals and the conservatives when it’s come to cases dealing with the government and religion. He’s provided key votes in decisions limiting school prayer, while siding with religious institutions in other cases involving their relationship with the government.

His replacement may be even less likely to rule in favor of keeping church and state separate, giving religious conservatives a more reliable vote on the court. And they might get their first post-Kennedy victory very soon, as there is a major case that court is considering taking up having to do with legislative prayer.

Prisoner Rights And Criminal Justice

Kennedy had become a voice-to-listen-for on prisoners’ rights, even if he had not be willing to join the liberals who most recently sought to re-examine how states implemented the death penalty. Kennedy wrote an 2008 opinion declaring unconstitutional the use of the death penalty for child rapists not also convicted of murder, and also wrote a 2005 opinion outlawing the use of the death penalty on juveniles.

Additionally, he wrote a 2015 concurrence denouncing solitary confinement, and also provided the pivotal votes in cases having do to with California’s overcrowded prison system that released thousands of prisoners.

It’s not a given that his successor will be opposed to reforms, however incremental, to the criminal justice system; the late Justice Antonin Scalia, for instance, sided at times with criminal defendants in major cases.

But it’s just as likely that Trump nominates someone more aligned with the other conservatives on criminal justice issues.

Partisan Gerrymandering

Voting rights advocates’ hopes that they could, in the near-future, secure a fifth vote to rein in extreme partisan gerrymandering died on Wednesday with Kennedy’s retirement announcement. For years, anti-gerrymandering advocates have sought to bring Kennedy a case that could convince him to join the liberals, after he wrote a 2004 concurrence hinting that, under specific circumstances, he could be comfortable imposing some limits on the practice.

While their attempt this term fell short, when the case was punted on a technicality, a concurrence from Justice Elena Kagan may have provided a path to attracting Kennedy’s vote. Kennedy, on Wednesday, decided not to stick around to let them try.

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