Administration Misses Deadline to Reunite Families Separated at the Border

by Chloe Juriansz,
Outreach Coordinator, MRC Phoenix Office

On June 26, 2018, a federal judge set two deadlines for reunification of families separated at the the border by President Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy. This decision, in response to the American Civil Liberties Union’s ongoing class action lawsuit filed against the Trump administration. The federal court mandated that all children under the age of five be reunited with their families by July 10, 2018; all children between the ages of five and eighteen, by July 26, 2018.

It also declared that for every child that the government fails to reunite with their family, the government must provide specific articulations as to why the reunification failed to occur. In completing these reunifications, the government must also take a streamlined approach to expedite the process, operating outside of the standard reunification process for unaccompanied minors through the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Despite these firm requirements established by the federal court system, the Trump administration has failed to meet both deadlines for the reunification of all separated families.

As of the first deadline for the Trump administration, July 10, 2018, fewer than half of the eligible separated migrant families were reunited with their young children. A total of 102 families were identified for reunification, yet only 38 families were reunited by the end of the day. The government reported that some parents of the children held by the government were not eligible for reunification, citing instances of possessing a criminal history, not being biologically related to the child, being held in criminal custody by the government, or being unable to be located after deportation or release from detention centers. Those who were reunited with their families were released to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who runs the adult detention centers that held their parents, and then released with their entire families, with the parents wearing ankle monitors.

The final deadline for family reunification was July 26, 2018, when 1,142 families were reunited with their children aged five and older. An additional 378 children were either released to a sponsor or their parents who were out of government custody or turned 18. Despite these reunifications, 711 children remained in detention centers as of July 29, 2018 due to the determined ineligibility of their parents. From this group, over 400 parents of detained children were deported, and the government claims that many of the remaining parents were contacted but “declined” to be reunited with their children. However, the ACLU submitted numerous affidavits from parents claiming that they were pressured to sign these documents and were unaware that they were relinquishing their right to reunification.

Despite the reunification of many families, the battle for both fair outcomes for migrant families and overall immigration reform in the United States is far from over. The families reunited throughout July still face removal proceedings and continue to battle to obtain legal status in the United States. Migration Resource Center is committed to helping those in need of immigration legal services throughout the Phoenix area in order to achieve these goals.

For more information:
CBS news report
CNN news report
Time news report


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