Things That Matter

The Number Of Migrant Kids Still Separated From Family Rises To 666 As The Search Continues To Find Missing Parents

Despite widespread efforts by an international network of volunteers and lawyers, hundreds of kids remain separated from their parents as a result of Trump’s cruel immigration policies.

Volunteers had been calling hundreds of phone numbers provided by the government and even had been going door to door in several Central American countries in an attempt to locate family members. However, much of that search has been put on hold thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, new information provided by the government indicates that the number of children missing their parents now stands at 666. A number that is growing as more evidence comes to light, despite the fact lawyers have successfully reunited many families.

Lawyers working to reunite children with their parents say that the number of cases is higher than previously thought.

Lawyers who have been working to reunite migrant families separated by Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy at the border now believe the number of separated children for whom they have not been able to find parents is 666, higher than they told a federal judge last month, according to an email obtained by NBC News.

Previously, the lawyers said they could not find the parents of 545 children after they had tried to make contact but had been unsuccessful. But in a new email, lawyers point out that the number is higher because the new group includes those “for whom the government did not provide any phone number.”

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, explained to NBC News that the new number “includes individuals in addition to 545 for whom we got no information from government that would allow meaningful searches but are hopeful the government will now provide with that information.”

However, the work to reunite families continues as a strong pace.

As the administration provided lawyers with additional phone numbers to aid the long-running search, the search continues.

Volunteers have searched for parents by phone and by going door-to-door across Central America, which has been interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee has also established toll-free numbers in the U.S., Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and mailed letters to 1,600 potential families.

According to the committee, it’s believed that the parents of 333 children are currently in the U.S., while parents of the other 295 are believed to be outside the country.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the parents and children are still separated, only that the committee has been unable to locate the parents. The committee has found other family members for 168 of the 628 children whose parents have yet to be located. So progress is being made, regardless of how slow it is.

The family separations were a result of a ‘zero tolerance’ policy pursued by the Trump administration.

Shortly after taking office, Trump made it clear that cruelty would be the focus of his immigration policy. And he quickly followed that promise up with actual policy, instituting a so-called ‘zero tolerance’ policy on the U.S.-Mexico border that led to migrant families being separated.

Prior to the borderwide “zero tolerance” policy, the Trump administration tested family separation in a pilot program in the El Paso sector. The vast majority of the children referenced in the email obtained by NBC News were separated during this pilot program, but the total also includes some children who were separated under zero tolerance.

More than 2,700 children were separated from their parents in June 2018 when U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego ordered an end to the practice under the “zero-tolerance” policy. He ordered them reunited within 30 days. And now here we are more than two years later.

Biden says that he is committed to reuniting all families separated under Trump’s cruel immigration policies.

As president, Joe Biden has committed to reuniting families who were separated under Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy. However, Biden has so far not decided whether separated parents who remain outside the U.S. will be given the opportunity to come to the country to reunite with their children and pursue claims to asylum.

The ACLU wants Biden to allow separated families to return to the United States to be given some kind of legal status.

“We think that’s only fair given what they’ve been put through,” Lee Gelernt, attorney representing parents for the American Civil Liberties Union, told the AP. “We will find the families but we cannot provide the families with the right to return to the United States and give legal status. Only the administration can do that.”

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As Trump Defends Family Separations, Biden Calls It “Criminal” And Outlines His Plan For Compassionate Border Policy

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As Trump Defends Family Separations, Biden Calls It “Criminal” And Outlines His Plan For Compassionate Border Policy

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Politicians understand that courting a broad and diverse coalition of voters is the key to winning the election. That is what paved the way for the 2008 victory of President Barack Obama as well as the House and Senate during the same election. So far, early voting numbers for young voters are way higher than this point in the 2016 election.

Likewise, Latinos are a large electoral voting bloc in the 2020 elections. In fact, for the first time ever, the Latino vote outnumbers the Black vote. According to the Pew Research Center, there are 32 million eligible Latino voters and that accounts for 13 percent of all eligible voters. This is a major step into democracy for the Latino community.

And with large numbers of Americans also supporting common sense immigration reform with a focus on compassionate policies, it makes sense that the Biden campaign is working hard to show the contrast between his policies and those of the Trump Administration.

During the last presidential debate before the election, President Trump was given the chance to address his cruel family separation policy.

Credit: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

At the final debate, Trump was asked about the 545 children who still haven’t been reunited with their families after being separated from them because of his administration’s immigration policy.

The Trump Administration previously pursued a “zero-tolerance” immigration policy as a deterrent for immigrants by prosecuting adults who crossed into the country without authorization, resulting in systematic family separation. 

It was one of the few times Trump has been directly confronted about the worst human rights abuse of his four years in office.

At first, Trump blamed smugglers for bringing children over the border, not admitting that these children had come with their parents and been taken from them on orders from his administration. When the president finally acknowledged the reality, though, he gave us a window into what he actually thinks about family separation: In his view, it wasn’t that bad.

In his response, Trump defended those policies and failed to detail how we planned to help bring those families back together. In that same thought, he also claimed that the “they [the kids] are so well taken care of.”

“Yes, we’re working on it, we’re trying very hard,” Trump said when pressed on how his Administration was working to reunite the families.

Several recent stories about the conditions these kids are in contradict Trump’s talking points.

Credit: John Moore / Getty Images

To Trump’s point about the children being “so well taken care of,” though, his administration has also argued in court that it doesn’t need to provide detained children with a “toothbrush,” “towels,” “dry clothing,” “soap,” or “sleep.” This was while his Border Patrol was denying children those things and also while it was refusing donations of those things to give to the detained children.

But still, Trump thinks that the children who may never see their parents again “are so well taken care of.” He did not mention the at least six children who have died in CBP custody in less than a year.

As Biden fact checked Trump on the 545 children who still haven’t been reunited with their parents, Biden called the policy ‘criminal.’

Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

After Trump’s non-answer to how he plans to reunite these broken families, Joe Biden, clearly impassioned, went to work fact-checking Trump. In direct response to the administration’s inhumane and cruel policies, Biden said the policy “makes us a laughingstock and it violates every notion of who we are as a nation.”

As the two sparred over the policy, Biden went on to call it ‘criminal.’

“What happened? Their kids were ripped from their arms and separated and now they cannot find over 500 sets of those parents and those kids are alone. Nowhere to go, nowhere to go. It’s criminal,” Joe Biden went on to say.

During the final presidential debate, Joe Biden outlined his vision to fix our broken immigration system – he outlined how he will lead with compassion and end the Trump Administration’s cruel policies that tear children away from their mothers.

Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The immigration portion of the debate spanned several subjects. Asked about the Obama Administration’s immigration policy—which included record deportations— Biden sought to create rare distance between himself and the President he served.

When asked about Obama’s immigration agenda, Biden admitted “We made a mistake. He added “It took too long to get it right. Took too long to get it right. I’ll be President of the United States, not Vice President of the United States.”

One important policy Biden plans to follow through on is protecting DREAMers. An overwhelming majority of Americans support protecting Dreamers and Biden echoed these sentiments. During the debate he committed to creating a pathway to citizenship for more than 11 million undocumented people. He specifically nodded to DREAMers, whose status the Trump Administration has challenged.

It’s also worth noting that one of the reasons these policies weren’t able to be implement during the Obama-Biden administration was the united Republican obstructionism. For example, the Republican-led House refused to take up the bipartisan immigration deal passed by the Senate in 2013.

Even when he wasn’t directly addressing the issue of family separations, Joe Biden kept families in the discussion.

During the debate, Joe Biden did his best to avoid getting into arguments and instead tried to keep the focus on the issues and they impact the American family – and families longing for a chance at the American Dream.

From Covid to family separations, Biden touched on all of the issues that keep American families up at night. And given the feedback from several post-debate polls, Americans support many of the progressive policies that Biden mentioned during the debate.

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ICE Says They Rescued A Mother And Her Newborn But Then They Turned Around And Separated Them

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ICE Says They Rescued A Mother And Her Newborn But Then They Turned Around And Separated Them

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The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency had recently released a story about how border agents had ‘rescued’ a woman and her newborn baby in the middle of the Texas desert. In their release, they detailed how the pair were provided with immediate medical treatment, however, they failed to mention that the mother was immediately separated from her newborn.

As the case gains more attention, immigration advocates and legal officials are coming forward with new details in the woman’s case and it’s helping to paint a very different picture from the one given by border officials.

New details are emerging after ICE said they had ‘rescued’ a woman in labor.

An entirely new picture is emerging regarding a story put out by ICE itself saying they had ‘rescued’ a woman in labor. However, ICE officials forgot to mention one very important detail – just hours after their supposed rescue – they separated the woman from her newborn baby and detained her pending her possible removal from the country.

According to the ICE press release, border agents responded to a 911 call and found the woman soon after she had delivered her baby alone in a field near Eagle Pass, Texas. Officials first transported the mother and child to a nearby hospital, then the baby was airlifted to a neonatal care unit hours from where the mother was being held in custody.

“They told her she was going to be sent back to Mexico without her baby,” according to Amy Maldonado, who is legally representing the mother, and spoke to the LA Times.

The mother and baby have since been reunited but a legal process is still playing out regarding their future.

It wasn’t until the LA Times published a story about what had happened that ICE released the mother from custody, and she was reunited with her baby in San Antonio.

According to Austin Skero, chief patrol agent for the Del Rio sector, who responded in a tweet to The Times, agents had to separate the mother and baby due to the San Antonio hospital’s COVID-19 policy for the neonatal unit, which the hospital immediately disputed.

Leni Kirkman, representative for University Hospital in San Antonio, told The Times in an interview the statements were not correct. 

“That is definitely not the hospital policy,” she said. “We do not separate babies and parents.”

Even during a surge in COVID-19 cases in Texas, “which fortunately we’re not in now,” she said, “the parents of NICU babies got to be with their baby. That was not something we backed off on. Babies need to be with their parents.”

Not surprisingly, ICE has a history of separating mothers from their newborn and nursing children.

Sadly, there are many stories of mothers being torn apart from their children – including those who still require breastfeeding.

Last year, following the ICE raids of processing plants in Mississippi, details emerged of a mother who picked up by ICE and unable to see her 4-month-old daughte, who she was still nursing – and who herself is a U.S. citizen.

Advocates also report that some asylum seekers in the Texas who have given birth in ICE custody were forced to hand over their newborns to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Reuniting with their newborn hinges on their release from federal custody, and whether they can access legal help to navigate the child welfare system.

Last year, DFPS attempted to place a detained woman’s newborn in foster care. The woman “cried for 72 hours straight,” a Texas OB-GYN told Rewire.News. The OB-GYN held the woman at the hospital for five days so that she could see a psychologist.

“I was worried she was going to hurt herself when they took her back to the detention center,” the doctor said. “Luckily in her case, they were eventually able to locate an aunt-in-law, her uncle’s wife, who lived in Chicago. But this wasn’t a blood relative, and it wasn’t someone she’d ever met before.”

The mother of the newborn had attempted to seek asylum in the U.S. but was forced to stay in Mexico.

The mother picked up by ICE with her newborn, whose name has not been released, had recently applied for asylum at the border earlier this year with her older child, who is 6-years-old, but officials put them into the controversial “Remain In Mexico” program.

The Migrant Protection Protocols (or MPP) sent them back to Mexico to wait until their asylum hearing. Under MPP, tens of thousands of asylum seekers have been forced back to dangerous Mexican border towns to await hearings in the United States, some for more than a year. Citing the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration closed the U.S.-Mexico border in March to all nonessential travel and indefinitely postponed most MPP hearings. 

The American Civil Liberties Union has challenged the Homeland Security Department over its “treatment of pregnant people, or people in active labor, delivery, or post-delivery recuperation in CBP custody or subject to the MPP,” and called for an investigation into returning pregnant women to Mexico under MPP.

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