Im­mi­grant chil­dren scooped up into par­ents’ arms

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SAN DIEGO — Lug­ging lit­tle back­packs, smil­ing im­mi­grant chil­dren were scooped up into their par­ents’ arms Tues­day as the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion scram­bled to meet a cour­tordered dead­line to re­unite dozens of young­sters forcibly sep­a­rated from their fam­i­lies at the bor­der.

In Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, two boys and a girl who had been in tem­po­rary fos­ter care were re­united with their Hon­duran fathers at a U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment cen­ter about three months af­ter they were split up.

The three fathers were “just hold­ing them and hug­ging them and telling them that ev­ery­thing was fine and that they were never go­ing to be sep­a­rated again,” said im­mi­gra­tion lawyer Abril Valdes.

One of the fathers, Ever Reyes Me­jia, walked out of the ICE cen­ter car­ry­ing his beam­ing son and the boy’s Teenage Mu­tant Ninja Tur­tles back­pack. The boy was se­cured in a booster seat, and fa­ther and son were driven away. Lawyers said the fathers were too dis­traught to speak to the news me­dia.

The Jus­tice De­part­ment said more than 50 chil­dren un­der age 5 could be back in the arms of their par­ents by the dead­line at the end of the day. It was the largest sin­gle ef­fort to date to undo the ef­fects of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s zero-tol­er­ance pol­icy of sep­a­rat­ing fam­i­lies who try to slip across the Mex­i­can bor­der into the U.S. Au­thor­i­ties gave few de­tails on where the re­unions would be held, and many were ex­pected to take place in pri­vate.

In Grand Rapids, the chil­dren were “ab­so­lutely thrilled to be with their par- ents again. It’s all con­fus­ing to them why there’s so many peo­ple here and why there’s so many strangers here, but they know that they’re safe,” Valdes said out­side the ICE of­fices.

Gov­ern­ment at­tor­neys, mean­while, told a fed­eral judge in San Diego that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion would not meet the dead­line for 20 other chil­dren un­der 5 be­cause it needed more time to track down par­ents who have al­ready been de­ported or re­leased into the U.S.

Asked about the missed dead­line, the pres­i­dent said: “Well, I have a so­lu­tion. Tell peo­ple not to come to our coun­try il­le­gally. That’s the so­lu­tion.”

Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union at­tor­ney Lee Gel­ernt, whose or­ga­ni­za­tion filed the law­suit that forced the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s hand, said he was “both thrilled and dis­ap­pointed” with the gov­ern­ment’s work on the dead­line.

“Things have taken a real step for­ward,” Gel­ernt said.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion faces a sec­ond, big­ger dead­line — July 26 — to re­unite per­haps 2,000 or so older chil­dren who were also sep­a­rated from their fam­i­lies at the bor­der in the past few months. staff On mem­bers Tues­day at a non­profit morn­ing, or­ga­ni­za­tion that has been hous­ing many of the youngest chil­dren “made sure ev­ery back­pack was full and ev­ery child got a hug and a good­bye,” South­west Key CEO Juan Sanchez said.

Au­thor­i­ties said most of the par­ents would be re­leased into the U.S. from im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion cen­ters, and the chil­dren would be freed from gov­ern­ment con­tracted shel­ter sand fos­ter care. The adults may be re­quired to wear an­kle mon­i­tors while their cases wind through im­mi­gra­tion court, a process that can take years.

Thou­sands of ba­bies, tod­dlers and older chil­dren were sep­a­rated from their par­ents at the bor­der this spring be­fore Trump re­versed course on June 20 amid an in­ter­na­tional out­cry over the im­ages of young­sters in chain-link end. cages and au­dio record­ings of chil­dren cry­ing. Many of the par­ents had turned them­selves into U.S. au­thor­i­ties re­quested at asy­lum, the bor­der say­ing and they were flee­ing vi­o­lence back home in their Cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­tries.

Late last month, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego set a 14-day dead­line to re­unite chil­dren un­der 5 with their par­ents and a 30-day dead­line for older chil­dren.

On Tues­day, Sabraw showed lit­tle ap­petite for giv­ing more time to the gov­ern­ment un­less it could show good rea­sons in spe­cific cases. “Th­ese are firm dead­lines. They’re not as­pi­ra­tional goals,” the judge said. In try­ing to meet the first dead­line, the gov­ern­ment be­gan with a list of 102 chil­dren po­ten­tially el­i­gi­ble to be re­united and whit­tled that to 75 through screen­ing that in­cluded DNA test­ing done by swab­bing the in­side of the Of the court those cheek. the at­tor­neys 75, gov­ern­ment Jus­tice told De­part­ment al­ready and re­united would guar­an­tee four chil­dren 34 oth­ers would be back with their par­ents by the end of Tues­day. They said an ad­di­tional 17 could also join their par­ents if DNA re­sults ar­rived and a crim­i­nal back­ground check on a par­ent was com­pleted by day’s The gov­ern­ment de­fended its screen­ing, say­ing it dis­cov­ered par­ents with se­ri­ous crim­i­nal his­to­ries, five adults whose DNA tests showed they were not par­ents of the chil­dren they claimed to have, and one case of cred­i­ble child abuse. “Our process may not be as quick as some would like, but there is no ques­tion it is pro­tect­ing chil­dren,” said Chris Meekins, a Health and Hu­man Ser­vices De­part­ment of­fi­cial help­ing to di­rect the process.


EVER REYES ME­JIA, OF HON­DURAS, CAR­RIES HIS SON TO A VE­HI­CLE AF­TER BE­ING RE­UNITED and re­leased by Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Tues­day. Two boys and a girl who had been in tem­po­rary fos­ter care in Grand Rapids were re­united with their Hon­duran fathers af­ter they were sep­a­rated at the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der three months ago.

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