Aug 31 2018

Hello! We Still Kidnap!

Y’know. If you’re Brown.

Still separated: Nearly 500 migrant children taken from their parents remain in U.S. custody
By Maria Sacchetti, Washington Post
August 31, 2018

More than a month after a court deadline passed for the government to reunite families divided by President Trump’s border crackdown, nearly 500 children remain in U.S. government-funded shelters without their parents, according to court papers filed Thursday night.

Advocates and government officials say it could be weeks, months or longer before they are together.

Nearly two-thirds of the 497 minors still in custody — including 22 “tender-age” children, who are younger than 5 — have parents who were deported, mostly in the first weeks of Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy.

Their lawyers are locating parents in their home countries to ask whether they want their children sent back, or would rather have them remain in the United States to pursue their own immigration claims. At the same time, the lawyers are trying to bring some deported parents back to seek permission to live in the United States — a decision that might end up with U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw, who issued the reunification order.

Other parents are still being vetted, or are ineligible for reunification because they are in custody — in some cases for minor or years-old offenses.

Government officials say they are moving as fast as possible, despite legal challenges and complicated logistics — including dozens of children who officials say want to go home to be with their parents, but have not been sent because of a temporary court order that prohibits their deportation.

The government expects to reunite all the families eventually, unless parents pose a safety threat or decide that their children should pursue asylum in the United States. Children in those circumstances probably would have relatives or other sponsors they could live with, officials say. If not, they could end up in long-term foster care.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which fought for Sabraw’s reunification order, suspects the children are agreeing to leave the United States only because they miss their parents, and not because they feel safe in their homelands, ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt said. Lawyers are trying to bring some deported parents back so families can apply for asylum together instead.

Experts say the months children spent apart from family members can cause them permanent emotional harm.

“I’m really concerned about the longer-term mental health and well-being of the kids,” said Christie Turner, deputy director of legal services for Kids in Need of Defense, which provides lawyers for migrant children. “How much damage is being done to them?”

The Trump administration says dozens of separated children have made clear to immigration judges that they want to return home to their deported parents, but immigration officials have been delayed in sending them because of a court order barring deportations of children involved in litigation over the forced separations. The government is asking Sabraw to make clear that officials do not need additional court permission to allow such children to leave voluntarily.

At the same time, the ACLU says it continues to investigate reports that some parents were coerced into waiving their right to seek asylum, to be reunited with their children.

Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which oversees the federal contractors that care for the children in shelters, says the goal is to find a parent or guardian for every child in U.S. custody — not only those who are still separated, but also the tens of thousands of teenagers who cross the border on their own each year.

Wolfe said the separated children are treated the same as the rest of the more than 11,000 minors in ORR care, many of whom have relatives in the United States waiting to take them in. They get three meals a day, snacks, schooling, sports, medical care, access to lawyers and regular phone calls with their parents.

“For our purposes, the services are identical to the others,” Wolfe said. “Once we’re referred a child, the child is sent to one of our shelters just like a minor who crosses the border alone.”