The kids the US government lost
More than 70 children who have been separated from their parents by the US government’s draconian asylum seeker policy have gone missing in the nation’s labyrinthine system of immigration detention.
The US government has not been able to find the parents of the children who were separated from their families, the US’ Health and Human Services Department has confirmed.
“There are some children who we believe are separated for whom we have not yet identified the parent,” an official has said.
The official said that of the 2,551 children in federal custody who are believed to be separated, officials have confirmed matches with 2,480 parents.
He said 1,609 such parents are in government custody. That means potentially hundreds of parents have either been deported or released already, or may be in federal or state criminal custody.
The situation is the result of the US government’s policy – since October last year – to split families as they crossed the border with Mexico as a deterrent to irregular arrivals.
US District Judge Dana Sabraw has ordered the government to temporarily halt the deportations of reunited families in light of a newly filed emergency motion.
Earlier, the American Civil Liberties Union filed an emergency court writ requesting Sabrew temporarily halt the deportation of parents until one week after they have been reunited with their children.
Lawyers and activists cite “the persistent and increasing rumors … that mass deportations may be carried out imminently and immediately upon reunification.”
Any deportation should allow parents time to confer with their children and make an informed decision, they say.
The judge is giving the Justice Department a week to respond to the ACLU’s filing.
Many separated families are seeking asylum, but the odds of gaining US asylum have become more unlikely with the Trump administration’s harsh stance.
More deportations could ensue under a new Trump administration policy, which will see asylum seekers claiming a fear of domestic violence or nongovernmental gang violence in their home countries, almost certainly rejected.
After the Trump administration missed its court-ordered deadline for reuniting some children under 5, the Department of Justice said the government will probably handle future reunifications differently.
It said there will be a limited number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities where reunifications will occur, which officials hope will prevent a repeat of the confusion.
Judge Sabraw said the US government should have worked out which adults in immigration detention were verified parents of separated children.
There is also an imminent deadline for the US government to provide a list of parents in detention who are not eligible for reunification – for example, those with criminal records or those who are not certain to be a child’s parent.
There is also a court-ordered deadline for the US government to reunite separated children ages 5 to 17 with their families. That means reuniting as many as 2,551 kids in just a few weeks.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist