More than 450 parents accused of illegally entering the country may have been deported while their children remain in the U.S., a major stumbling in the federal effort to reunite all the families by Thursday’s court-ordered deadline.
The Trump administration, in federal court papers filed Monday, said the cases of 463 parents are “under review.” The filing also said 879 parents had been reunited with their children and another 538 have been cleared for reunification.
There are 917 parents considered not eligible or “not yet known to be eligible” – the 463 plus 454 others – to be reunited with their kids, the filing says. Some of those parents are no longer in the country, others have criminal records, communicable diseases or other issues rendering them ineligible.
“The government’s word alone on this determination is not sufficient,” the ACLU said in a statement. “We’ve asked the court to order the government to provide details about the nature of the charge, conviction, or warrant for each parent whom the government excluded, so that we can verify that not reunifying the child is truly in their best interest.”
The issue began with the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that had resulted in all immigrants entering the U.S. anywhere other than legal entry points being arrested and their children ushered to Health and Human Services centers for care. Prior to the Trump policy, immigrants caught entering at non-entry points with children had simply been sent back with the children.
Last month, federal judge Dana Sabraw said the Trump policy might violate immigrants’ due process rights and ordered the administration to reunify all children within 30 days. The administration missed its first deadline of reuniting the first group — children under age 5. The government reunited 57 of the 103 “tender age” children with their parents.
The government faces a Thursday deadline to reunite children older than 5 with their parents.
KIND – Kids in Need of Defense – has been a leader in the charge to reunite the children with their parents.
“We cannot be a nation that puts immigrant children in jail and throws away the key,” the group said in a statement. “Saying that the Executive Order is an end to family separation is a cynical misrepresentation that has nothing to do with the well-being of families and is another act of abject cruelty towards immigrant children.”