Published: Sun, August 05, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

US wants help finding parents deported without their children

US wants help finding parents deported without their children

Federal officials have yet to explain how they'll reunite more than 400 migrant children with the parents who were deported without them - "unacceptable" news for the judge who had ordered the government to have done so already.

"This is going to be a significant undertaking and it's clear there has to be one person in charge", said U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw at a hearing in San Diego.

As roughly two-thirds of the families separated by the administration have been reunited, the focus in an ongoing court case that ordered reunifications has turned to the more hard cases - especially the hundreds of parents who were deported to their home countries alone.

It was the first time Sabraw had publicly acknowledged the possibility that the government's family separation policy could leave some children without their parents permanently.

The government, meanwhile, said in a court-ordered joint status report filed Thursday that the ACLU should use its "considerable resources and their network of law firms, NGOs, volunteers and others" to find deported parents and orchestrate reunification.

During the status conference, the deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project Lee Gelernt said his group is prepared to do more to help reunify the families, but that it still needs more information about them now in government files.

In uncharacteristically blunt language, the judge said that it is "just unacceptable" that only 12 or 13 parents out of close to 500 parents who have been deported from the US have been located thus far.

He told lawyers that "it was disappointing" the government had not yet given him a plan for finding and reuniting the remaining families.

Between April and June, the Trump administration separated more than 2,500 children from their parents after the families came into the country - legally and illegally - across the southern us border as part of a "zero tolerance" immigration policy.

But the Trump administration said the ACLU should do it instead.

The Associated Press reported that 410 children whose parents were outside the country were in the custody of Health and Human Services as of Wednesday. It argued that the government has had access to possible phone numbers of some of the deported parents but failed to use the contact information ahead of deadlines assigned by Sabraw.

Sabraw, a Republican appointee, chided the government for trying to shift responsibility for tracking down the remaining separated parents to the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit that led him to issue the reunification order.

Once a parent is located, the government asked that the parent or his or her attorney provide written confirmation that the parent wants to reunite with his or her child, as opposed to waiving that right.

"Not only was it the government's unconstitutional separation practice that led to this crisis, but the United States Government has far more resources than any group of NGOs (no matter how many NGOs and law firms are willing to help),'" they wrote.

"An administration official said Thursday evening that the filing simply asks the court to require the ACLU to determine the wishes of and fulfill their obligations to their clients, as they have repeatedly represented in court that they would".

Gelernt also accused Washington of holding back information that could help locate the deported parents.

The administration has maintained that any parents deported without their children willingly left without them.

Children and families stage a sit-in last month in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill to demand the Trump administration reunify migrant families separated at the border.

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