U.S. Must Plan for Reuniting Deported, Missing Immigrants
Demonstrators hold signs while marching past the Trump International Hotel during a protest against the Trump administration’s policy on separating immigrant families in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Toya Sarno Jordan/Bloomberg)

U.S. Must Plan for Reuniting Deported, Missing Immigrants

(Bloomberg) -- A federal judge ordered the Trump administration and advocates for immigrant families to each submit a plan for reuniting parents who were either already deported or whose whereabouts in the U.S. are unknown.

The order Monday by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego follows the government’s announcement last week that it found parents or guardians for about three-quarters of more than 2,500 children who were taken from the adults they arrived with during the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” border crossing crackdown. But that has still left more than 700 other children still in custody without a parent or guardian to claim them.

“The government is at fault for losing several hundred parents in the process, and that’s where we go next -- identifying and finding those parents who have been removed without children or who are in the interior and not presently located so that they can be reunified,” Sabraw said at a hearing Friday.

Family-Unification Judge Stresses Court’s Limits Post Deadline

The government was given until July 30 to generate a list of all children ages five to 17 who had been reunified. The judge also ordered the government to produce to the American Civil Liberties Union by Wednesday a list of the immigrant parents deemed ineligible for reunification, and must provide more details about who’s already been deported, including identifying numbers U.S. authorities gave them when they arrived at the border.

While Sabraw praised the government’s efforts to reunify most families at a July 27 hearing, he emphasized that the work wasn’t done. Throughout the process, the government has pushed back on some of the judge’s deadlines for data sharing, saying it needed to focus on reunifications instead of oversight.

Meanwhile, the ACLU has argued that deportations of families who’ve been reunited should be delayed for at least seven days to allow parents enough time to consider if they want their kids to remain in the U.S. to pursue asylum claims or to return home. The civil liberties group told the judge on July 28 that it has received reports that some migrant families who’ve been reunited after months of forced separation are being coerced by U.S. immigration officials into agreeing to be deported.

An immigrant father who was reunited with his teenage son after being apart from him for 50 days said he was handed a form by a government official that was in English and already marked to show him choosing to be deported, the ACLU said in a court filing. When the man questioned an official, he was told he had to choose the deportation option. After he refused, the man said he and at least six other parents who also wouldn’t agree to sign the deportation form were again separated from their children.

Sabraw issued a temporary halt to their deportations on July 16. The order remains in effect.

The case is Ms. L. v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 18-cv-0428, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California (San Diego).

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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