ACLU Cites ‘Troubling’ Tales of Issues With Migrant Family Reunions

(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration’s effort to return the youngest children separated from their parents at the border hasn’t inspired the confidence of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Among the 58 children under age 5 that the government has reunited in the wake of its “zero tolerance” crackdown on illegal entry is one family that was told to wire around $1,900 to Western Union “to pay for reunification,” the civil rights group said in a joint court filing with the Justice Department providing a status report on the reunification process.

In another instance, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents dropped off a parent and children, including a recently reunited six-month-old, alone at a bus stop without a ticket, the civil rights group said, noting that its information comes from family attorneys and service providers.

“It is not acceptable for defendants to make compliance with this court’s injunction contingent on [families] paying thousands of dollars to reunify with their children,” the ACLU said in the filing. “Plaintiffs therefore ask the court to order defendants not to charge [families] for any of the costs of reunification, including DNA testing and air travel, and to reimburse any individuals who were in fact charged."

The U.S. told U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw it’s in “compliance” with his order to reunite families and that the only parents who haven’t gotten their children back aren’t “eligible.” A dozen children have parents who’ve been deported, 10 parents are in criminal custody and 23 are no longer party to the lawsuit, according to the Justice Department’s filing. A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment beyond the filing.

It was the ACLU that won a ruling in June from a San Diego federal judge forcing the government to reunite the families after a public outcry led President Donald Trump to suspend its separation policy. The government has until July 26 to reunify some 3,000 additional children, according to a court order. A hearing on next steps is set for Friday.

The ACLU said it has no “independent verification” of the government’s claim to have reunited 58 young children with their families. The government gave the judge various reasons why the remainder of the 103 kids who were supposed to be returned to parents by July 10 are still separated.

Among those parents now ineligible is one with a murder warrant in Guatemala, another convicted of child cruelty and another suspected of being party to an international criminal organization linked to human trafficking, the government said.

The ACLU proposed seven steps to monitor the government’s efforts:

  • A daily list of parents who haven’t been reunited with their children
  • 24-hour notice of reunions for verification
  • Verifications of reunification must occur by July 17
  • Starting July 17, daily reports of reunification
  • Detailed reasons why certain adults don’t qualify for unification
  • Access to lawyers when reunited
  • Funds for mental health professionals and counseling

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