Nearly 1,500 Families Reunited, Hundreds Still Separated in Border Control Custody
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reunited around 1,442 of the 2,551 separated migrant children with their parents in immigration detention by the July 26 deadline, as mandated by a federal judge in San Diego.
An additional 378 children were reunited with parents or guardians in locations around the United States outside of ICE custody.
Many volunteer groups and U.S. citizens assisted in the transport and care of children arriving at adult ICE locations in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Dropbox founder Drew Houston co-founded the charitable organization FWD.US, which funded airline tickets for children to return to their parents. Others provided meals and clothing to children and legal advice to adults during this transition and transport period.
The main immigrant-assistance center in El Paso, Texas has witnessed about 25 reunified families a day over the past couple of weeks.
Although reunited with their parents, the entirety of the impact of the separation upon the children is yet to be determined in full. Lutheran Social Services support worker Julia Zaragoza told Time Magazine that some children in Phoenix were afraid to go to the bathroom without their parents, afraid that this would lead to a second long-term separation.
No committed timeline has been made clear for some 700 children who were not reunited with their families. In over half of these cases – some 431 – the parents have been deported, and some of them signed bureaucratic paperwork in the process which agreed to leave their children behind. Government officials confirmed this in a call with reporters on Thursday.
“Parents that did return home without their child did so after being provided an opportunity to have that child accompany them on the way home,” Matthew Albence, chief of the enforcement division of the ICE, said. “Yes, they’ve been deported. We don’t keep track of individuals once they’ve been deported to foreign countries.”
According to the administration, parents of 120 children declined the reunification, while others had a criminal history, red flags during their review, or their location was under review.
However, the American Civil Liberties Union filed multiple affidavits that claim that some parents didn’t understand that they were waiving their option to have their children returned to them at that time.
ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said that the ACLU would attempt to contact all deported parents to determine whether they had intentionally left without their children.
Still, the Department of Health and Human Services says that they completed all eligible reunifications and met the court-mandated deadlines for children both younger than and older than five years old.
Federal Judge Dana Sabraw had demanded that all children under five were reunited within two weeks of the court order. At the time of Trump’s decision to stop the practice of separating children from their parents detained by border control, there were an estimated 100 children under age five, relocated between 23 different facilities in the nation.