The lanky boy in the green polo shirt sat quietly with his hands in his lap, surrounded by half a dozen lawyers in dark suits.
The boy, identified in court documents only as “W.S.R.,” grinned nervously from time to time before things got started in the Dirksen Federal Building Thursday morning.
He had less reason to smile later, after U.S. District Court Judge Edmond E. Chang declined to say whether he would allow the boy’s father, who is being held in New Mexico, to be reunited with the boy in Chicago.
“He was hoping to see his father on his 16th birthday,” said John Wellschlager, an attorney for the boy, who reaches that milestone Friday.
The teenager — along with a 9-year-old boy — is being housed in a shelter in the city. The boys traveled with their fathers from Brazil. The fathers were detained about six weeks ago after allegedly trying to enter the United States illegally.
The Chicago Sun-Times has highlighted the boys’ stories as part of its coverage of the separation of families under the Trump administration’s beefed-up immigration policy.
A judge in California last month ordered the government to reunite all separated families with children 5 or older within 30 days.
But lawyers for the two children being held in Chicago argued Thursday that that’s not soon enough. The attorneys said that each day the boys are enduring “severe, ongoing and worsening trauma.” The lawyers also say the separation is illegal.
The judge agreed with the lawyers for the boys that, to a large extent, the detention debacle is a problem of the government’s own making. But he also said he’s concerned that in releasing the two Brazilian boys, he’d be giving them preference over the 3,000 or so other children elsewhere in the United States who’ve been separated from their parents under the Trump policy. Chang referred to it as “line jumping.”
Lawyers for the government urged Chang to follow the timeline set by the judge in California, which requires the reunions to occur by July 26.