On Monday, the Trump administration admitted it may have deported 463 migrant parents without their children after they separated them at the border. This new report will hinder the administration from meeting their court-ordered deadline to reunite more than 2,000 separated families by Thursday.
Around 2,500 children were separated from their parents during Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, and U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw has ordered the government to reunite all of them by Thursday. However, the government reports that only 879 parents have been reunited with their children as of Monday. With the deadline fast approaching, the government is attempting to take the easy way out and claimed that 917 of the parents are not eligible, or not yet proven to eligible, for reunification. This means, they claim that 917 parents are no longer in the country or have been deemed unsuitable as parents.
Out of those 917 parents that the government is refusing to reunify with their children, almost half have possibly been deported. According to administration officials, 463 migrant parents were potentially deported without their children, but they warn that number could change because the parents’ files are currently under review.
Government attorneys claim that any parent deported without their child willingly gave up their custody and agreed to be deported. However, this new report once again raises questions about what the parents were told and if they fully understood what they were agreeing to. In June, multiple reports revealed that migrant parents were falsely promised to be reunited with their children if they signed voluntary removal order. However, the parents were reportedly not reunited with their children before they were deported.
Legal coordinator at Annunciation House in El Paso, Tex. Taylor Levy, who has been assisting migrants separated from their children, said:
Our attorney volunteers working with detained separated parents are seeing lots of people who signed forms that they didn’t understand. They thought the only way they would see their child again is by agreeing to deportation. It is particularly problematic for indigenous Guatemalans who are not fluent in Spanish and were not given explanations in their native languages.
Immigration advocates who are assisting in the reunification process have expressed concerns that deporting migrant parents can cause major issues for children’s immigration cases. Spokeswoman for Kids in Need of Defense, Megan McKenna said, “How can we go forward on a case if we don’t know the parent’s wishes?”
The American Civil Liberties Union has expressed its frustration with the way the government has handled the reunification process. The new report that more than 400 parents were deported has further complicated the process. The ACLU said, “These parents urgently need consultations with lawyers, so that they do not mistakenly strand their children in the United States.” The ACLU has asked Judge Sabraw to order the government to hand over a list of parents who signed a voluntary removal form by Tuesday. This list would aid in completing the children’s immigration cases and the reunification process.
The government claims to have cleared 538 more parents for reunification, but are waiting for transportation.