family separations
July 30, 2019

Lawyers for the ACLU alleged in court on Tuesday that the Trump administration has been using a legal loophole in order to justify the continued separation of over 900 migrant children from their parents in the past year.

In June 2018, a court order required the government to curb its child separation policy except in situations where "the adults pose a risk to the child because of their criminal record, a communicable disease, abuse, or neglect," The Washington Post reports. But on Tuesday, the ACLU claimed that children have been separated from their parents for extremely minor offenses, including a parent having an outstanding destruction of property warrant of an alleged $5 in damage, or a traffic violation.

"They're taking what was supposed to be a narrow exception for cases where the parent was genuinely a danger to the child and using it as a loophole to continue family separation," ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt told The Washington Post in an interview. "What everyone understands intuitively and what the medical evidence shows, this will have a devastating effect on the children and possibly cause permanent damage to these children, not to mention the toll on the parents."

The ACLU claims a total of 911 children were separated from their parents between the June 2018 court order and June 29, 2019. Last year, some 2,700 children were separated from their parents between May and the end of June, when President Trump ordered officials to follow a policy of "family unity." On June 26, a federal judge additionally ordered the Trump administration to reunite the families that had been separated.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan has characterized family separations as being "extraordinarily rare" and emphasized to the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee that when separations do happen, they are carefully and compassionately overseen.

"This is in the interest of the child," he said. Jeva Lange

May 19, 2019

The Trump administration has reportedly identified at least 1,712 migrant children who were separated from their parents at the southern border, court transcripts from a Friday hearing revealed. Those children are in addition to the 2,800 children who were separated as a result of the White House's "zero tolerance" policy.

In March, a federal judge, Dana Sabraw ordered the Trump administration to identify within six months children who were separated from their families before the zero tolerance policy went into effect. Thousands more children may still be identified, NBC News reports. So far, the government has reviewed the files of 4,108 children out of 50,000 cases.

Customs and Border Protection Commander Jonathan White, the official who spearheaded the reunification process, said the agency has been focusing on the children most likely to have been separated, but the findings are not conclusive. "I do anticipate that because we were very inclusive we will discover that many of those are false positives after CBP looks at them," White said. Read more at NBC News. Tim O'Donnell

March 9, 2019

A federal judge in California has ordered the Trump administration to reunite thousands of families who were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The decision follows an earlier one which initially stated that the administration was responsible for reuniting 2,800 families who were separated after June 26, 2018. But a watchdog report revealed that thousands of additional families may have been separated as far back as July 1, 2017. The judge, Dana Sabraw, has now included those families in his ruling.

Identifying the families will likely prove to be difficult, as the government did not have an adequate tracking system at the time of the separations. Per the Associated Press, Justice Department attorney Scott Stewart told Sabraw last month that adding more families to the order would be "a significant burden" and "blow the case into some other galaxy." Jallyn Sualog, the deputy director of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement, said in a court filing that reviewing each additional case would require a "rapid, dramatic" expansion in staffing.

Sabraw acknowledged the difficulties, but also said identifying the families "clearly can be done." Tim O'Donnell

March 3, 2019

A group of 29 parents from across Central America who were deported and separated from their children by U.S. immigration agents last year crossed the U.S. border on Saturday.

The parents, some of whom have been separated from their children for nearly a year, are demanding asylum hearings in the hopes of reuniting with their children. The parents have traveled toward the border for the past month, accompanied by immigration lawyers and religious leaders

The families have a total of 27 children in U.S. custody. Some of the children remain in detention, while others are living with foster families. Customs and Border Protection began processing the asylum claims late in the day.

One father from Guatemala said that he waited for seven hours on Saturday for information from U.S. immigration officials.

"Time doesn't matter," he told NBC News. "Our love for our child has no price." Read more at The Washington Post and NBC News. Tim O'Donnell

October 14, 2018

President Trump on Saturday confirmed The Washington Post's Friday report that his administration is considering ways to legally revive its suspended policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border.

"We're looking at a lot of different things having to do with illegal immigration," he said. "We're going to do whatever we can do to get it slowed down."

Splitting up families, Trump argued, could serve as a deterrent. "If they feel there will be separation, they don't come," he said, claiming without evidence that there are "really bad people coming in" who "haven't known the children for 20 minutes, and they grab children, and they use them to come into our country."

Border apprehensions have increased this year after a decline in 2017; nevertheless, the larger trend is a marked decline over the past two decades. Many of the families separated were not illegal immigrants but asylum-seekers who attempted to enter the country legally. Several hundred children remain separated from their families months after the separation policy was shut down in court. Bonnie Kristian

October 12, 2018

President Trump is frustrated that his border crackdown has been curtailed, and is working on finding a way to legally separate migrant parents and children, The Washington Post reported Friday.

In an effort to dissuade migrant families from attempting to cross the border illegally, the White House is considering several different detention options. One possibility is that families seeking asylum will be detained together for up to 20 days, then will have to decide whether they want to stay in family detention or send the children to a government shelter.

Family detention would allow parents to stay with their children, but they could be detained for months or years as they get through the lengthy legal immigration process. On the other hand, allowing children to be taken into a shelter would mean other family members or guardians in the U.S. could take them into custody.

The consideration is a response to the fierce backlash to the administration's "zero tolerance" policy on immigration. Starting in May, thousands of migrant children were separated from their families to be detained separately as their parents were prosecuted. Trump signed an executive order ending the practice, but Vox reports that various loopholes have continued to separate families even as the administration works to comply with a court order to reunite all migrant family units.

White House adviser Stephen Miller, who has been at the front of the administration's hardline immigration policies, has reportedly been pushing to create a new policy. He reportedly felt that the practice was an effective deterrent against illegal immigration. Miller is apparently determined to reinstate the separations, no matter how bad "optics" may be. Read more at The Washington Post. Summer Meza

October 2, 2018

The Trump administration's policy of separating migrant children from their families was generally panned on ethical and humanitarian grounds β€” but a new report from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) finds it was an exemplar of government incompetence, too.

More than 800 children were illegally kept in holding cells longer than the 72 hours permitted by court order, reports The Washington Post, which obtained a copy of the document. One child was held in this manner for 25 days. Some of these holding cell facilities, intended for short-term use, had no beds or showers.

DHS also had no real system to keep track of children too young to speak to identify themselves or their parents. "Border Patrol does not provide pre-verbal children with wrist bracelets or other means of identification," the report says, "nor does Border Patrol fingerprint or photograph most children during processing to ensure that they can be easily linked with the proper file."

Technological failings were serious, too. Federal computer systems often cannot communicate with one another, so detained children's personal information was transferred via emailed Microsoft Word documents. "Each step of this manual process is vulnerable to human error," the DHS OIG says, "increasing the risk that a child could become lost in the system."

Worse yet, DHS claimed in June to have made a "central database" of separated children so they could be easily reunited with their families. The OIG report found no such database exists.

Finally, the OIG found border agents turned away migrants who sought asylum at legal entrances. In some cases, this prompted the would-be asylum-seekers to enter the U.S. illegally instead.

More than 400 children remained separated from their families as of early September. Bonnie Kristian

August 28, 2018

Hillary Clinton went on a tweeting spree, but hers wasn't about alleged Google censorship.

Clinton, who faced President Trump in the 2016 presidential election, took the administration to task in a series of tweets Tuesday. "There's a lot going on right now β€” understatement of the year," she wrote. She reminded her followers that hundreds of migrant children who were separated from their parents upon arriving at the border remain in government custody.

Homeland Security officials said last week that about one-fifth of the children who were separated as a result of the administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy had yet to be reunited with their parents, even though a federal judge set a July deadline for all reunifications. Despite the missed deadline, the judge said the government was making "very encouraging" progress.

Clinton went on to highlight a few "tragic circumstances," like the Guatemalan toddler who died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, and said we should "never read about" such events. "We have to be better than this," Clinton concluded. Summer Meza

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