Former ICE chief predicts many migrant children will never be reunited with their parents

Former ICE chief on Trump child-separation policy
(Image credit: Screenshot/YouTube/MSNBC)

The Trump administration acknowledged Tuesday that it has no real plan on how to reunite migrant parents with their children after they are separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under President Trump's new "zero tolerance" policy. The parents are detained by the Homeland Security Department while the children are transferred to the custody of the Health and Human Services Department's Office of Refugee Resettlement. "This policy is relatively new," said Steven Wagner, an acting HHS assistant secretary. "We're still working through the experience of reunifying kids with their parents after adjudication."

Former acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Sandweg predicted Tuesday that some of the children and parents won't be reunited for years, if ever. "Permanent separation — it happens," Sandweg, who led the agency in 2013-14, told NBC News. The parents are pushed through court and often deported fairly quickly, but the children are processed at a dramatically slower rate, and once the parents are back in Central America, the odds of reunification drop dramatically, Sandweg said. Because children who spend years in the foster system are often made wards of the state and adopted, he added, "you could be creating thousands of immigrant orphans in the U.S. that one day could become eligible for citizenship when they are adopted."

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