A court filing has bad news for immigrant families torn apart at the border—as the government struggles to meet a Thursday reunification deadline, indications have arisen that “hundreds” of parents were deported without their children.
CNBC reports that the joint filing was made Monday by the federal government and the American Civil Liberties Union.
At least 463 parents are apparently “absent.” Attorneys working on behalf of the U.S. government say their cases are “under review.”
While reasons aren’t given for each parents’ absence, lawyers acknowledged that “some” mothers and fathers had been deported while their children remain in federal custody. The bizarre development is likely to place further logistical strain upon the government, which has struggled to meet the demands of a court order stipulating that all families be reunited by July 26th.
As of Monday, 879 parents had been reunited with their children.
Since the Trump administration instituted a “zero-tolerance” policy toward illegal immigration in May, an estimated 2,500 children were separated from their families after crossing or attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had instructed the Justice Department to pursue criminal prosecution of all unauthorized migrants detained on irregular entries.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered that all minor children held alone under zero-tolerance be returned to their parents by July 26th at the latest.
The government’s so far fallen flat on both deadlines, with workers citing the need to conduct DNA tests and confirm parentage. Some 917 parents are either ‘not eligible’ or have not yet been cleared for reunification.
Immigration advocates quoted by CNBC say premature deportations can cause problems for children’s cases.
“How can we go forward with a case if we don’t know the parent’s wishes?” asked Megan McKenna, a spokeswoman for Kids in Need of Defense.
The American Civil Liberties Union has voiced its frustration with the drawn-out process of bringing families back together. Even though an ACLU lawsuit spurred Sabraw’s June decision, the ACLU still doesn’t have a list of parents who’d ‘elected’ to be deported without their children.
“These parents urgently need consultations with lawyers, so that they do not mistakenly strand their children in the United States,” wrote the ACLU in its Monday filing. Attorneys for the organization asked Sabraw to order the government to hand over its lists by Tuesday.
Watchdogs have suggested that some migrant parents were ‘coerced or pressured’ by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to sign papers authorizing their own deportations or relinquishing asylum claims.
“They were being pressured by ICE to sign papers, that it would be the fastest way that they could see their child again, that if they chose to fight their case they would be kept in detention for many months longer, prolonging their separation from their children,” claims Royce Murray of the American Immigration Council.
Kids in Need of Defense issued another statement Tuesday, deploring the morality of the ongoing immigration crisis.
“We cannot be a nation that puts immigrant children in jail and throws away the key,” said the group. “Saying that the Executive Order is an end to family separation is a cynical misrepresentation that has nothing to do with the well-being of families and is another act of abject cruelty towards immigrant children.”