Trump Could Separate Families Again If Parents Don't Agree To Long-Term Detention

Saul Bowman
July 11, 2018

More than 2000 children were separated from their parents by US immigration authorities at the border this spring before US President Donald Trump reversed course on June 20 amid an global outcry.

Foster care placement provider Bethany Christian Services, which operates in MI and Maryland, said the seven children under five in its care had been reunited or had travel arrangements for reunification.

In a conference call with reporters, Chris Meekins, a senior official with the Department of Health and Human Services, said the reunification process may be going slowly, "but there is no question that it is protecting children". One child has still not had either of its parents identified.

Most of the parents will be released into the US from immigration detention centers, and the children will be freed from government-contracted shelters. The Trump administration had asked for the court's permission to have ICE keep those families in detention until their cases were adjudicated - a process that typically takes months and would have gone against previously established terms of the settlement. The ACLU would like a faster reunification process while the US government claims they are bound by strict protocols, such as a plan to DNA test every child and parent before a reunification can occur. Authorities were working to verify the parentage in 16 other cases, while in 20 other cases, the parent had already been removed from the United States or released from federal custody, Meekins said.

The Annunciation House shelter in El Paso, Texas, was assisting four parents of children under 5 after their release from immigration detention, none of whom had reunited with their children as of Monday evening (Tuesday NZT), said Taylor Levy, legal coordinator.

The injunction to reunite families came as a result of an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit.

Staff members at a nonprofit organization that has been housing numerous youngest children 'made sure every backpack was full and every child got a hug and a goodbye, ' Southwest Key CEO Juan Sanchez said. Officials said they expected to reunite another 54 children on Tuesday. While parents are held in jail to await trial by a judge, children are moved into accommodation managed by an HHS agency.

"The kids are all over the country", ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt said. They have to conduct criminal background checks of the parents. At least nine will not be reunited by the deadline because their parents were deported without them. A Honduran boy would remain with a foster family while the father remained in custody, although Krause said it was not clear to her why.

So far, the court has yet to change the reunification deadlines, which are set for July 10 for children under 5 and July 26 as the deadline for all children separated from their parents.

Jennye Mariel Pagoada Lopez, 24, said one night she got so sick that a fellow detainee was forced to scream and wave at a security camera to get her help - but the officials who arrived still refused to get her to a doctor, despite her heavy bleeding.

After a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to reunite the immigrant families it has separated, there's been a trickle of stories of parents being reunited with their kids.

To speed the reunions and reduce confusion, Sabraw had ordered the government to provide a list of the separated children's names to the ACLU over the weekend.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the parents in a class-action lawsuit, said US officials "have not even tried" to return 12 children to parents who were deported, and said officials should have more quickly found eight parents who have been released in the United States.

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