Things That Matter

More Migrant Children Were Separated From Their Families Than The US Government Admitted To

The Trump administration likely separated more children from their families than the original 2,737 than the government previously acknowledged. According to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), thousands more migrant children were separated from their parents than originally stated. While the exact numbers are still uncertain, the original count from last year did not include the thousands more who officials say may have been separated from their families starting in 2017. As of now, the government does not know if these families have been reunified.

It’s likely impossible to see the full scope of how many migrant kids the Trump administration has taken away from their parents.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which runs the government shelters for unaccompanied migrant children, saw a “steep increase” in the number of separated children in 2017. Even before The Trump administration announced their “zero tolerance” policy at the border, “HHS faced significant challenges identifying which children in its care had been separated by” the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Amid fears of widespread loss or trafficking of immigrant children, the report’s evidence suggests most separated children (like children who arrive unaccompanied without parents) were placed with close relatives within the US. This startling report is the first U.S official acknowledgment that the Trump administration was using family separation as a tool to stop illegal immigration almost a year before it became actual policy.

According to the report, the spike in young children resulted in a shortage of beds for children in the agency’s care.

“More children over a longer period of time were separated by immigration authorities and were referred to HHS for care than is commonly discussed in the public debate,” Ann Maxwell, Assistant Inspector General for Evaluation and Inspections, told CNN. “How many more children were separated is unknown.”

There were some clues that this practice was being conducted prior to 2017. Then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly told CNN that the Trump administration conducted a “pilot program” from July 2017 to October 2017 to test the “zero tolerance” policy in El Paso.

Allegedly, there haven’t been efforts made by the Office of Refugee Resettlement to find the exact number of children separated by DHS.

According to Reuters, the practice of separating minors from adults has been standard practice “for more than a decade.” From October 2016 through February 2018, before the ‘zero tolerance’ was put in place, almost 1,800 immigrant families were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The ORR has stated that the agency “has only limited resources,” and tracking previous DHS separations would deter them from their main focus of caring for children under government custody. They now have changed its tracking procedures to better flag and account for all children at intake.

While the “zero tolerance” policy came to an end last June, the report shows that children were still being separated. One hundred eighteen children were separated between July 1 and Nov. 7, 2018. Eighty-two of the children are under the age of 13 and 27 of them are under the age of 5. The DHS provided the ORR with limited information about the reasons for these separations.

HHS has now reunited nearly all of the 2,737 children with parents or released them to relatives living in the US. The prior separated children were all released before “zero tolerance.”

Last year, Customs and Border Protection apprehended about 50,000 unaccompanied children during the fiscal year which was up from 41,435 in 2017. Prior to the “zero tolerance” policy, children were separated from parents if they had a criminal history.

Lee Gelernt, the ACLU attorney who successfully led the court challenge that ended the Trump administration’s separation policy, said in a statement the he will return to court to take up the findings raised in the report.

“This policy was a cruel disaster from the start. This report reaffirms that the government never had a clear picture of how many children it ripped from their parents. We will be back in court over this latest revelation.”


READ: Here’s What We Know So Far About The New Refugee Caravan That Just Left Honduras

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10-Year-Old Boy Found Crying Alone Near Border Had Been Deported And Kidnapped With His Mom

Things That Matter

10-Year-Old Boy Found Crying Alone Near Border Had Been Deported And Kidnapped With His Mom

Anyone who has watched this video of a 10-year-old boy asking a Border Patrol officer for help through tears, can admit just how heartbreaking it is. The boy says he was left alone while traveling with a group across the border when they abandoned him.

But now his family is speaking out and sharing the backstory to the emotional video that further highlights just how urgently the crisis at the border needs to be addressed.

Video of a 10-year-old boy wandering near the border quickly went viral for how heartbreaking it was.

A heartbreaking video shared last week by Customs and Border Protection of an unnamed 10-year-old boy found wandering alone in Texas underscored how desperate the situation is on the southern border. The video showed a young Nicaraguan boy found on the side of a dirt road by an off-duty Border Patrol agent after wandering alone for four hours in the desert.

People reports that U.S. Customs and Border Protection released footage of the incident, which happened on April 1 by a Rio Grande border patrol agent. The boy explains to the officer that he woke up and discovered that his group had left him behind. “I came looking because I didn’t know where to go, and they can also rob or kidnap me or something,” he told the officer. 

In a statement to the publication, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the agent “transported the child to a Border Patrol facility where he was fed and medically screened.”

But now we’re getting a better understanding of what led to this heartbreaking video.

Now, the boy’s family have described his plight to the Washington Post. Little 10-year-old Wilton Obregon and his mom crossed the border into Texas last month but were expelled under Title 42, a policy that releases migrants back to Mexico without letting them seek asylum.

Hours after they were sent back, they were kidnapped, according to Wilton’s Miami-based uncle, Misael Obregon. The kidnappers called him and demanded a $10,000 ransom but Misael could only pay $5,000 so the kidnappers only released Wilton. They dumped Wilton back at the border. Obregon said his sister is still in custody of the kidnappers. “Now I’m worried that she’s going to die,” he said.

In fact, the boys mom called Misael Obregon on Friday morning, crying after seeing the video of her son crying at the border.

The family’s plight highlights the need for reforms to Title 42.

During the campaign, President Biden complained about the humanitarian consequences of the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which forced asylum seekers to wait for the their court hearings in Mexico. Many were forced to wait in dangerous refugee camps along the border that subjected them to human trafficking, violence, and sexual assault.

Under Title 42, though, which began under President Donald Trump and continues under Biden, asylum seekers are again in the same desperate situation. It’s unclear how many of them have been kidnapped.

“The Biden administration is winding down one of the Trump administration’s most notorious policies but at the same time it is expelling other asylum seekers back to the very same dangers, attacks and kidnappings through its continued use of the Trump administration’s Title 42 policy to evade U.S. refugee law,” Eleanor Acer, senior director of refugee protection at Human Rights First, said in a statement.

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Rite Aid Refused To Give Undocumented Residents The COVID-19 Vaccine Even Though They’re Eligible

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Rite Aid Refused To Give Undocumented Residents The COVID-19 Vaccine Even Though They’re Eligible

As the United States ramps up its vaccination program (with more than two million people getting vaccinated each day), many Americans are eager to get that jab in the arm. But who is eligible varies from state to state and sometimes even county to county.

Despite the different eligibility thresholds in each state (depending on age group or risk factors), there is no immigration requirement whatsoever at the federal, state or local level. However, not all places are following that guideline and some undocumented residents are being incorrectly turned away.

The pharmacy chain Rite Aid is apologizing after two undocumented residents were denied vaccines.

The giant pharmacy chain Rite Aid has apologized to two undocumented immigrants who the company said were “mistakenly” denied COVID-19 vaccinations at Southern California stores. However, since then, the two women have been invited back by Rite Aid to get their vaccinations and the chain has issued an apology.

Rite Aid spokesperson Christopher Savarese described both cases as “isolated” incidents resulting from workers at the stores not following established protocols for vaccine eligibility. The employees will be re-educated on the protocols to make sure everyone is on the same page.

In a statement later sent to ABC News, Rite Aid officials said, “In such an unprecedented rollout, there are going to be mistakes and there will be always areas for providers to improve — we’re seeking out those opportunities every day.”

Savarese added, “This is very important to us that this is corrected. Both of the situations that we’re talking about have been resolved, and both of those people will be getting their vaccine at Rite Aid.”

To clarify, just who is eligible for the vaccine at this moment?

Although vaccine eligibility does vary from state to state, even county to county, there is nothing requiring that someone prove their immigration status to receive a vaccine. Rep. Tony Cárdenas, who represents Los Angeles, told ABC News that the legal immigration status of a person is not supposed to interfere with them getting vaccinated.

“That is not a requirement whatsoever at the federal, state or local level, and that organization (Rite Aid) has been told very clearly that that was wrong, and they immediately apologized for doing so, but it left the woman very distraught,” Cárdenas told KABC of Rager’s employee.

On Feb. 1, the federal Department of Homeland Security issued a statement that the agency and its “federal government partners fully support equal access to the COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine distribution sites for undocumented immigrants.”

“It is a moral and public health imperative to ensure that all individuals residing in the United States have access to the vaccine. DHS encourages all individuals, regardless of immigration status, to receive the COVID-19 vaccine once eligible under local distribution guidelines,” the DHS statement reads.

However, the confusion over whether undocumented immigrants qualify to receive vaccine has continued to occur not only in Southern California, but elsewhere in the country. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley issued an apology to at least 14 people who were rejected Feb. 20 at its vaccination site because they could not provide proof of U.S. residency.

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