As many as seventeen states of the United States sued the Donald Trump administration on Tuesday in an effort to force officials to reunite migrant families separated at the Mexico border, AP reported. All the states are led by attorney generals who belong to the Democratic Party.

“The administration’s practice of separating families is cruel, plain and simple,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said. “Every day, it seems like the administration is issuing new, contradictory policies and relying on new, contradictory justifications. But we can’t forget: the lives of real people hang in the balance.”

The states said Trump’s executive order last week to keep families together had caveats, and fails to reunite parents and children who have already been separated. They alleged that the administration denied the parents and children due process and their right to seek asylum.

Separately, a federal judge in California ordered United States border authorities to reunite separated immigrant families within 30 days. In cases of children who are younger than five, the deadline is 14 days.

The states that sued are Massachusetts, California, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

In May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy that allows authorities to file criminal charges against undocumented immigrants. The Trump administration faced widespread criticism for it. On June 18, investigative news website ProPublica published an audio recording of immigrant children from Central America crying inconsolably for their parents at a detention centre on the US-Mexico border.

President Trump has called for the deportation of “people who invade” the country without any judicial proceedings. Later, he tweeted that people must be stopped at the US-Mexico border and “told they cannot come into the US illegally”.