Nearly half of youngest kids not re­join­ing fam­i­lies

Santa Fe New Mexican - - NATION & WORLD - By Colleen Long

WASH­ING­TON — The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion said Thurs­day all el­i­gi­ble small chil­dren who were separated from their fam­i­lies as a re­sult of its zero tol­er­ance im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy have been re­u­nited with their par­ents.

But nearly half of the chil­dren un­der 5 re­main apart from their fam­i­lies be­cause of safety con­cerns, the de­por­ta­tion of their par­ents and other is­sues, the ad­min­is­tra­tion said.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion was un­der a court man­date to re­unite fam­i­lies separated be­tween early May and June 20, when Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der that stopped sep­a­ra­tions. The Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union filed a law­suit on be­half of a woman who had been separated from her child, and U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw or­dered all chil­dren re­u­nited with their par­ents.

Fifty-seven chil­dren were re­u­nited with their par­ents as of Thurs­day morn­ing, ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said.

“Through­out the re­uni­fi­ca­tion process, our goal has been the well­be­ing of the chil­dren and re­turn­ing them to a safe en­vi­ron­ment,” ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from the heads of the three agen­cies re­spon­si­ble for the process. “Of course, there re­mains a tremen­dous amount of hard work and sim­i­lar ob­sta­cles fac­ing our teams in re­unit­ing the re­main­ing fam­i­lies. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion does not ap­proach this mis­sion lightly.”

Most of the re­unions oc­curred by Tues­day’s court-or­dered dead­line, but the govern­ment ac­knowl­edged in a court fil­ing that 19 oc­curred Wednes­day and one Thurs­day.

The ACLU pro­posed that the ad­min­is­tra­tion should be mon­i­tored closely as a July 26 dead­line ap­proaches to re­unite more than 2,000 chil­dren who are 5 and older with their par­ents. It asked the judge to re­quire that all parental re­la­tions be ver­i­fied and all back­ground checks be com­pleted by next Thurs­day. It also wants a daily re­port on how many fam­i­lies are re­u­nited, start­ing Tues­day.

The ACLU also pro­posed that the ad­min­is­tra­tion be given no more than a week to re­unite 12 young chil­dren with their nowde­ported par­ents, from whom they were separated at the bor­der. The clock would start tick­ing as soon as the par­ent ob­tains travel doc­u­ments for the child.

“There is no ex­cuse for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s missed dead­line,” said ACLU at­tor­ney Lee Gel­ernt. “Chil­dren are suf­fer­ing be­cause of it. The govern­ment must get these fam­i­lies back to­gether.”

The ad­min­is­tra­tion said in its fil­ing that it is dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine how much time is needed and that re­uni­fi­ca­tions should oc­cur “on a flex­i­ble sched­ule.”

Both sides are due back in court Fri­day to ex­pand on their pro­pos­als. It will be the fourth hear­ing in eight days, an in­di­ca­tion of how closely the judge is watch­ing his dead­lines.

U.S. of­fi­cials said 46 of the chil­dren were not el­i­gi­ble to be re­u­nited with their par­ents; a dozen par­ents had al­ready been de­ported and were be­ing con­tacted by the ad­min­is­tra­tion. Nine were in cus­tody of the U.S. Mar­shals Ser­vice for other of­fenses. One adult’s lo­ca­tion was un­known, they said.

Of the de­ported par­ents, of­fi­cials said they had cho­sen to leave their chil­dren be­hind. One de­ported fa­ther, how­ever, told the Los An­ge­les Times ear­lier this week that he didn’t re­al­ize what he was do­ing when he signed the pa­per­work to leave his child be­hind. It wasn’t clear if he was one of the dozen; no names have been made pub­lic.

In 22 other cases, adults posed safety con­cerns, they said. Of­fi­cials said 11 adults had se­ri­ous crim­i­nal his­to­ries in­clud­ing child cru­elty, mur­der or hu­man smug­gling. Seven were not de­ter­mined to be a par­ent, one had a false birth cer­tifi­cate, one had al­legedly abused the child. An­other planned to house the child with an adult charged with sex­u­ally abus­ing a child.

The 46 chil­dren will re­main in the care of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, which will con­tinue to seek to place them with a spon­sor or in foster care, as it does for the more than 10,000 other mi­nors who ar­rived in the U.S. with­out a rel­a­tive.


In this im­age taken from video, Javier Gar­rido Mar­tinez, left, and Alan Gar­cia, right, sit with their 4-year-old sons at a news con­fer­ence Wednes­day in New York af­ter be­ing re­u­nited nearly two months af­ter be­ing separated.

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