Thursday, July 26, 2018

Hundreds of Families Remain Separated

As Reunification Deadline Looms:
Hundreds of Families Remain Separated

Shortly before today's court-ordered deadline for the reunification of families separated at the border, only 1,442 children had been reunited with their parents--one in three children remains separated. Some 468 parents have already been deported and there are considerable fears they may not be reunited without their children.
During recent days, children and parents who had been transferred away from the border area have been moved back to the region in anticipation of reunification. The ACLU had filed a suit requesting that any deportations be delayed for a week so that parents who have been reunified with children can make decisions important decisions--including the possibility of having children remain in the U.S. with close family members so that the children, who have separate cases from the parents, could be considered for asylum.
120 parents reportedly "waived" their rights for reunification--this could mean they are allowing their children to file a separate case to see if they could remain in the U.S--or in some cases, the parents may have been confused about what they were signing.
In the meantime, reports continue to emerge:
378 children have been released to close family members or reunited wih families in other ways, or they could have turned 18 and "aged out".
The parents of over 700 children have been deemed "ineligible" to be reunited with their children due to "criminal" charges--which apparently include hundreds of parents charged with the "crime" of unlawful entry or re-entry. This number includes the parents who have already been deported, have other charges against them, or who had been released and can't be located. We have no information on all of the charges, nor is there information about what will happen to the children of these "ineligible" parents.
Some parents who have been deported have told lawyers that they felt coerced to sign documents for "voluntary" departure, and did not understand that their children would not go with them. Many parents simply did not understand the "options" presented to them by officials.
Both parents and children, even after reunification, are experiencing emotional distress, with many children apparently still fearful, feeling that their parents had abandoned them, and suffering the effects of separation and their treatment in detention. Some 200 accounts collected by about 100 lawyers and coordinated by the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law found horrible conditions for children in the Border Patrol stations, where they are held before being sent to detention centers, as well as stories of abuse and inhumane treatment in the centers themselves.
Some members of Congress who traveled to the border last weekend, were also critical of what they witnessed, as in this video.
A number of groups in the border region are providing legal support for both parents and children and are coordinating efforts to support released families with transportation, shelter and others needs. Many released families are expected to make their way to the Los Angeles area, where there is a large Central American population.
Legislative Update 

Despite the introduction of several bills in Congress to take action on the family separation issue, nothing has moved forward--although Republicans did consider holding the separation issue hostage to passage of harsher immigration control policies! One of the most recent bills to be introduced, responding to mounting concerns and opposition to the role of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is HR 6361, "Establishing a Humane Immigration Enforcement System Act". Introduced by Congressional members Mark Pocan (WI), Pramila Jayapal (WA), and Adriano Espillat (NY), the bill would create a commission to recommend a "fair and humane system of immigration enforcement", towards eliminating ICE and transfering some of its "essential functions" to other agencies. However, the proposal would not repeal current laws that, for example, criminalize unlawful entry and re-entry. Click here for a fact sheet on the bill.
Click here to view an updated NNIRR Legislative Tracker, listing pending immigration-related legislation in Congress.
In the meantime, the House Appropriations Committee just approved $51.4 billion for DHS support in FY2019, which begins Oct. 1. The funding is $3.8 billion more than FY2018, and includes $5 billion for Trump's wall, along with funding for 400 new ICE agents and other immigration enforcement. The Senate had allocated $1.6 billion for the wall, a big disappointment for Trump, who has vowed to veto any budget that does not include funding for his border wall. The House and Senate proposals will still need to be reconciled. 

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