Cuomo, Democrats Call U.S. Immigrant Family Snafus `Despicable'

(Bloomberg) -- With the U.S. facing a court deadline to reunite immigrant families separated at the southern border, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo took the Trump administration to task for what he called a “despicable” process.

Noting that more than 900 of the more than 2,500 children taken into custody haven’t been reunited with their families, Cuomo said “this situation is either gross incompetence or it’s a purposeful gauntlet of pain.”

“Either way it’s despicable and it’s illegal,” the second-term Democrat said Thursday during a press conference, joined by two New York members of Congress and immigration rights advocates. “Children have rights and parents have rights and that’s the law.”

While the judge who ordered the reunification in June has commended the government’s progress toward Thursday’s deadline, he’ll have to weigh the final results of the Trump administration’s effort against claims about a lack of transparency and questionable practices on the ground at a hearing Friday.

The comments by Cuomo, who’s running this year for re-election, and the two congressmen, Jose Serrano and Eliot Engel, echo earlier criticisms of the Department of Homeland Security by other politicians and advocacy groups.

The government has disputed the American Civil Liberties Union’s characterization of the reunification effort as a “mess,” saying it’s worked diligently “days and nights” to reach resolutions for parents and children housed separately at dozens of facilities across the nation.

Immigration authorities have also denied allegations that they pressured many parents into agreeing to be deported without their children, saying policies are in place to ensure that every immigrant understands their rights when they are targeted for removal from the U.S.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego credited the government Tuesday for its “remarkable achievement” of reuniting a majority of the children aged 5 and older who were separated from their parents during the administration’s “zero tolerance” crackdown on border crossings. The government has classified about 900 children as “either not eligible, or not yet known to be eligible, for reunification."

The ACLU continues to challenge the administration’s handling of the family reunions and is urging the judge to block the deportation of families immediately after they’ve been reunified. The government has proposed a four-day waiting period while the ACLU is asking for seven days. The judge may take up the dispute at the Friday hearing.

Engel, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the government’s conduct has been “disgraceful” in the scramble to undo the damage caused by President Donald Trump’s family separation policy, which the president ended in June after an international public outcry.

"They wanted to make it so miserable for these families that the people following them wouldn’t do it,” Engel told reporters.

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