Activists hold a protest against the treatment and conditions of children in immigration detention outside U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Border Patrol station facilities in Clint, Texas
FILE - Activists protest the treatment of children in immigration detention outside U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Border Patrol station facilities in Clint, Texas, June 27, 2019.

A top human rights group is suing the Trump administration, accusing it of still separating migrant children from their parents despite last year's court order against it. 

The American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal judge Tuesday in San Diego to block the practice.

"It is shocking that the Trump administration continues to take babies from their parents. Over 900 more families join the thousands of others previously torn apart by this cruel and illegal policy," ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said.

According to the ACLU, nearly 1,000 children have been taken away from their parents since President Donald Trump ordered family separations stopped in June 2018, followed by a court order to reunite the families.

Trump said then that his policy is to "maintain family unity" unless the parent poses a risk to the child.

But the group says border patrol agents are snatching migrant children away from their mothers and fathers because of alleged minor crimes such as traffic tickets. 

ACLU filing

The ACLU's court filing describes how a guard took a little girl away from her father because she had a wet diaper. The guard allegedly called the father a bad parent. 

Another toddler was having trouble walking because she was recovering from a fever. She was taken from her parents, who were accused of neglect. Her father was deported.

One father with a speech impediment had trouble answering agents' questions and lost his 4-year-old son. Other families were torn apart because of clerical errors on paperwork, or parents were accused of having fake birth certificates. 

'Devastating' toll

Gelernt says agents are using what is supposed to be a genuine concern for child safety as a loophole to separate families.

"What everyone understands intuitively and what the medical evidence shows, this will have a devastating effect on the children and possibly cause permanent damage ... not to mention the toll on the parents," he told The Washington Post.

The Trump administration has not yet responded to the ACLU's lawsuit.

Testifying before Congress two weeks ago, Acting Homeland Security Chief Kevin McAleenan said family separations are "extraordinarily rare." He said the separation process is "carefully governed by policy and by court order" and is "in the interest of the child."