More Than 200 Migrant Children Are Still Separated From Their Families Awaiting Asylum Requests

credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

It’s been four months since a judge ordered the Trump administration to reunite separated families. However, 245 children are still in government custody, according to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Parents of 175 of the children in detention have been deported. Deported parents of 125 the children have decided not to seek reunification in their countries of origin, according to KTLA. Instead, the parents are telling their children stay in the United States to pursue asylum on their own.

Four months ago the ACLU sued the federal government over the family separations of 2,654 children. Yet many still remain separated.

The ACLU lawsuit called for the immediate reunification of all separated migrant families under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. Though Trump signed an executive order ending his own policy after backlash, he has also implemented a new policy that detains entire families together.

“The Trump administration’s family separation policy was a failure of epic proportions. The courts and public clearly rejected it. The government should be putting all of its resources into reuniting kids who are still waiting — not going back to the drawing board to do further damage,” Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project said in a statement. “It is deeply disturbing that this administration continues to look for ways to cause harm to small children.”

A new government watchdog report shows that U.S. agencies were never told of or planned for the “zero tolerance” policy that separated families.

Homeland Security and Health and Human Services officials were unaware or not told in advance of the decision by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to implement the “zero tolerance” policy. The Government Accountability Office revealed these findings as news comes that President Trump has renewed his plans to stop the record number of migrant families entering the United States. He is considering launching a modified version of his family separation policy to deter migrants from crossing the border.

The report also shows that more than 2,654 children were separated from families between April and June 2018, when the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy was in full effect.

On average separated children have spent 154 days — about five months — in government custody.

The ACLU says that separated children were sent to 121 different detention or care centers in 17 states throughout the U.S. Sometimes they were sent hundreds or thousands of miles away from where their parents were being held. The largest chain of child detention centers are the Southwest Key facilities in Arizona, California, and Texas, where 1,091 (41 percent) of the children were detained. Many of the children (ages 5-17) were from South American countries with the biggest percentage coming from Guatemala at 55 percent and 33 percent from Honduras.

“The eventual reunification of these children and parents was, by all accounts, not a priority of those who designed and carried out the policy,” the ACLU wrote. “The ACLU has not undertaken an independent data investigation, and instead has had to rely on the numbers provided to us by the government. Thus, this data may well undercount the number of children who were separated or contain other gaps.”

The ACLU is set to begin its next set of hearings in front of a federal judge where this report will be a key part of the case.


READ: ICE Agents Returned An Undocumented Immigrant’s Wallet And Then Promptly Arrested Him

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