Local Immigration Attorney Says Trump’s Executive Order is Nothing to ‘Celebrate’

WOODLAND -- Some say the migrant children at the center of international outrage and Wednesday's executive order by President Donald Trump have undergone a triple trauma.

They have been impacted by the trauma of fleeing violence in their native land, the often harsh trip of making it to the U.S. border and then the trauma of what's happened to families once they arrived in America.

Next week, one Woodland lawyer and her team will face off with the Trump administration in federal court about what's been happening at the border and how it violates a 21-year-old settlement.

FOX40 asked Holly Cooper, the co-director of the Immigration Law Clinic at University of California, Davis, if the executive order is something to celebrate.

"No, because it's not ending putting children in cages. It's a mischaracterization of what's going on," Cooper said. "It defies logic to say that we're no longer separating families but we're going to keep them together inside of a cage."

That's Cooper's assessment of the president's complete reversal of his own policy on detaining children separately from the parents who've brought them into the country illegally or to a non-official place to seek asylum.

"I've been working with detained immigrant children for 20 years now," Cooper told FOX40.

She's also one of eight lawyers still representing the class of detained kids in the federal Flores v. Meese case. That settlement was won by the children in 1997.

It's part of what Trump has blamed his family separation policy on and now, through executive order, seeks to lengthen the restricted amount of detention time mandated in the agreement. Cooper says his action violates the spirit of the still-binding settlement.

"No child would negotiate for a contract or a settlement where they would be separated from their parents," Cooper said.

Like President Trump, President George W. Bush professed a zero tolerance policy on illegal entries but Bush's version did not require family separation or detention in every case.

Neither did President Obama's. Albeit in prison environments, detained families were housed together. Others were given bond or placed on ankle monitoring while awaiting hearings on the federal misdemeanor of arriving illegally.

The Trump administration's new policy, announced early this spring, called for every entrant to be prosecuted, eliminating prosecutorial discretion.

Cooper feels the outrage still being expressed by the treatment of the littlest migrants seeking a better life with their families is well-placed given the declarations she's taken from other detained kids.

"The children are pretty consistently telling us that they're being medicated and their parents are not having any input into the process," Cooper said. "We're also hearing that children are being pepper-sprayed while they're in."

FOX40 has been told that so far none of the children currently being moved away from the crisis in Texas have been transferred to the juvenile detention facility in Yolo County.