700+ Migrant Families Still Separated as Reunification Deadline Passes

Aaron Brown
July 28, 2018

Many have been concentrated in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, where families have been funnelled into federal offices that were designated as "staging facilities", overwhelming local resources to the extent that some parents have had to wait days after arriving to rejoin their children.

Among those who remain apart from their children is Lourdes de Leon of Guatemala.

The government originally identified more than 2,500 parents who may have been separated in the chaos surrounding the zero-tolerance policy.

Michelle Brané, with the Women's Refugee Commission, which has been interviewing parents at the Dilley detention center outside of San Antonio, Texas, claimed that her team of attorneys has observed several reunifications gone awry, further traumatizing the kids involved. The policy quickly backfired amid global outrage from political and religious leaders and daily headlines about crying children taken from their parents.

As has been the case with previous court updates, the numbers are approximate and subject to change.

A charitable organization called FWD.US, founded by technology leaders including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Dropbox founder Drew Houston was paying for the airline tickets, the bus tickets and the lodging for all the families newly reunited in the Phoenix area to get them to relatives living all over the United States, said Connie Phillips of Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest.

They also described rushed parking lot reunions in cases where the parents and children found one another amid the chaos. "It would be hard to expect that number of agencies to seamlessly coordinate a family reunification effort".

Of the 711 deemed ineligible, 120 children's parents "waived reunification", the government said on Thursday evening.

Their numbers amount to almost one-fifth of the parents who were potentially separated from their children prior to Trump's June 20 executive order halting the practice.

94 children with parents whose locations are "under case file review".

21 children whose parents had "red flags" from their background checks.

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The government and the group that brought the lawsuit, the American Civil Liberties Union, have disagreed over some of the points of eligibility and what was required to meet the court's deadline. While it is not typical for the government to support migrants once they are released from federal custody, the separation policy left many families far from the border, where a long-established network of shelters and volunteer organisations have traditionally provided support.

Some parents faced the choice of whether to return to their country of origin as a family or leave their children in the U.S. to fight for asylum alone.

But the number also includes children who crossed over with parents, were separated from them and then reclassified as unaccompanied alien children when they were sent to shelters.

"The fundamental flaw of family detention is not just the risk posed by the conditions of confinement-it's the incarceration of innocent children itself", the doctors wrote.

"The government shouldn't be proud of the work they're doing on reunification", he said.

Phillips said the parents and kids open up as they go through an assessment process with workers.

Security guards stand outside a facility that houses child immigrants on June 18 in Homestead, Fla. ACLU wants additional information on this age group as well.

Jose Dolores Munoz, 36, from El Salvador, was reunited with his 7-year-old daughter last Friday, almost two months after they were separated. A court hearing was scheduled for Thursday.

Jose Dolores Munoz, 36, from El Salvador, was reunited with his 7-year-old daughter last Friday, almost two months after they were separated, but he said his daughter cries when he leaves the house. The ACLU expressed "concerns about misinformation given to these parents about their rights to fight deportation without their children", given the near-impossibility of tracking down parents in Central America.

The government, however, has argued for a shorter waiting period, saying the proposed extension of time by the ACLU would strap the already limited bed space at the country's detention centers and cost taxpayers an estimated $319 per day for each detained family member. Tracking down those parents and reaffirming they in fact do want their child to remain in the United States without them proved hard when the parents numbered one dozen.

On July 17, two Department of Homeland Security consulting medical experts submitted a letter to the U.S. Senate Whistleblower Caucus calling on Congress to stop plans to dramatically expand family detention. "We will continue to hold the government accountable and get these families back together".

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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