U.S. will reunite and release over 50 immigrant children

Posted July 11, 2018

Numerous separated children are fleeing violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen met with diplomats from those countries in Guatemala on Tuesday to discuss U.S. immigration policies.

In Tuesday's filing, administration lawyers stated that a remaining 27 children were not eligible for reunification with a parent and were therefore not subject to the court-mandated reunification deadline.

As NPR's John Burnett explained Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services says it has hired 250 additional personnel in the sprint to comply with the court order.

And activists, for their part, have described a "bureaucratic wall" that has prevented detained parents from finding and contacting their children.

In Grand Rapids, Mich., two girls and a boy 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.

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Disagreements arise when it comes to the protocols to be followed in more complicated reunification cases.

Under-5 children who will remain separated for now include parents have already been released into the U.S., have been deported, or are behind bars on criminal charges.

The decision came after a government lawyer said around half of the 102 young children could be placed back with their parents by the previously given deadline of Tuesday.

The child 'cannot be reunified at this time because the parent's location has been unknown for more than a year, ' the Justice Department said, adding that 'records show the parent and child might be US citizens'.

After public outcry and a court challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Trump stopped separating families last month.

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Federal officials said they are reunifying as many children as they can and attributed delays to "legitimate logistical impediments" that make it "impossible or excusable" to meet the court's deadlines.

"The objective of the [Trafficking Victims Protection Act ] is to promote the best interests of the child and to reunite families", the ACLU had argued.

The Legal Aid Society in NY said it is representing at least two children under five who meet the judge's criteria for reunification on Tuesday. They have to conduct criminal background checks of the parents. The first is to return to the Obama administration policy of releasing and monitoring families while they await deportation proceedings. An additional 20 children have purported parents with whom they can not be reunited because those adults have already been either removed from the United States or released into the country, which removes DHS and HHS's ability to force them to come get the children they claim are theirs.

Government lawyers said Tuesday that US officials will only be able to reunite 75 of 102 children under the age of 5 in the custody of Health and Human Services (HHS). One area of disagreement is DNA testing on parents and children, with the government saying it should be the general rule and the ACLU saying it should be done only when no other evidence is available to prove parentage. On Monday, she said there were 102 children in that age group, and that two had already been returned to their parents.

In this June 25 photo, a mother migrating from Honduras holds her 1-year-old child while surrendering to U.S. Border Patrol agents after illegally crossing the border, near McAllen, Texas.

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Jennye Mariel Pagoada Lopez, 24, said one night she got so sick that a fellow detainee was forced to scream and wave at a security camera to get her help - but the officials who arrived still refused to get her to a doctor, despite her heavy bleeding.