Thursday July 26 marked the court-ordered deadline by which the U.S. government was to have reunited immigrant families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. Although court filings note that roughly 1,400 families have already been reunited, by the end of the day on July 26 over 700 children had not been returned to their parents, despite having reached the legal deadline.
Officials stated that the parents of the 711 children remaining in government custody were either flagged as having criminal pasts making them unfit for reunification, are still under review, or have already been deported without their children; 431 children remain in limbo because their parents fall into the category of those whose parents have been deported. Although CNN reports Matthew Albence, Immigration and Customs’ Enforcement’s (ICE) chief enforcement officer, argued that deported parents signed waivers releasing their rights to be reunited with their children once they crossed out of the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed affidavits alleging that parents did not know what they were signing and did not understand that they were waiving their rights.
The ACLU further noted that the hurried reunification and the issues caused thereby were “a disaster that they [the government] created.” Several attorneys and advocates for reunited families have also come out alleging that even children who have been reunited with their parents are traumatized and mistrustful, scarcely willing to communicate at all, even when informed they are being returned to their parents.
This separation of families was consistent policy until early June, when videos of immigrant children in detention centers set off a public outcry, which led President Trump to halt the policy. Despite this public outcry and mass opposition to the separation policy, the President has not seemed to have suffered a large dip in support as a result of the policy becoming public knowledge. Some 30 Senate Democrats led by Dick Durbin and including former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders called on Thursday for an investigation of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) role in the separation of these families. As both DHS and DHHS are facing internal review for their roles in the tragedy, the letter states, DOJ should also be held accountable for “its integral role in initiating and executing the zero-tolerance policy.”
The fate of the 711 children not reunited with their parents is still to be decided; however, the ramifications of this separation policy are clear. Even children returned to their parents are traumatized; the ACLU continues to pursue its court cases against the current administration; the country is still separated over immigration policy. While family reunification has soothed the wounds for some families, it has far from solved any major issue in the immigration debate.
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