There Are 416 Immigrant Kids Still Separated From Their Parents — And No Clear Plan To Reunite Them
It's been months since the courts ordered the Trump administration to reunite the families separated as a result of the zero-tolerance border policy. Yet, 416 immigrant children are still separated from their parents, according to court filings. Fourteen of those kids are under age 5, according to ThinkProgress.
Of those children, 304 of their parents have been deported, according to ThinkProgress. And court filings show that more than two dozen phone numbers to reach these parents are "inoperable or ineffective." If parents can't be reached, the children's immigration cases remain in limbo.
On Thursday, the Trump administration announced a rule allowing the indefinite detention of immigrant children and their parents, according to NBC News. Previously, the children had to be released with their parents after 20 days in custody, according to the news network.
This move is in direct conflict with the "Flores settlement," which went into effect in 1997. The new rule will go into effect in 60 days. It's likely this rule change will be challenged by human rights groups in court.
"Under this proposed rule, HHS would implement the Flores Settlement Agreement and our duties under the law to protect the safety and dignity of unaccompanied alien children in our custody," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told NBC News.
The fact that hundreds of children remain separated from their parents highlights the government's lack of a plan for family reunification since the crisis began earlier this year. In late July, a federal judge mandated that the federal government reunite all families. While the government did reunite more than half of the thousands of separated families, the government still didn't fulfill that deadline, according to PBS.
The lack of a plan is highlighted by two "red flags" in the ACLU's most recent court filings. The filing said the organization is "particularly concerned" about a 4-year-old boy who was taken into custody when he was 3. The mother had an "outstanding warrant from abroad" alleging gang ties. She denied the allegation, and the judge at her immigration hearing said the warrant wasn't "sufficient evidence" to signal a danger to the community, according to the filing.
However, the government refused to reunite the two. "This child is suffering greatly in detention and is at particular risk of grievous and irreparable harm," the filing read.
The filing also alleges that the ACLU may not have a full list of parents who won't be reunited because of criminal or abuse allegations or histories.
Furthermore, parents separated from older children are so worried about their children's safety that they're refusing to be reunited with their kids in their home countries, according to Reuters.
In the court filing, the ACLU reported that it contacted the parents for 162 children. Of those contact, 109 refused to be reunified.
"We've had very difficult conversations with the parents this week," ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt told the federal court on Friday, according to Reuters. "As much as they want to be with their child, and it's heartbreaking, they feel it’s too dangerous."