The Trump administration took more than 3,900 kids from their parents. More than half remain separated.

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A volunteer with pro-immigration group Families Belong Together, attaches one of 600 teddy bears to a chainlink cage which ‘representing the children still separated as a result of U.S. immigration policies’ on the National Mall November 16, 2020 in Washington, DC.

  • A total of 3,913 migrant children were separated by the Trump administration, DHS said Tuesday.
  • Of them, just 1,786 have been reunited with their parents, the department said.
  • President Joe Biden has ordered DHS to reunite the remaining 2,127 children.
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More than half of the nearly 4,000 children separated from their families by the Trump administration remain estranged from their parents, the Department of Homeland Security revealed in a new report on Tuesday.

As part of its effort to discourage Central Americans from exercising their legal right to seek asylum, the previous administration forced parents to choose: get deported as a family unit or leave the kids behind so that they can pursue their claims in the relative safety of the United States.

Still, as DHS’s Inspector General said in a May report, some 348 parents and children were separated against their apparent wishes.

Now a new report, from DHS’s Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families, shows the full impact of that separation policy, which the previous White House abandoned after a public outcry.

The task force, created by an executive order from President Joe Biden, identified 3,913 children as having been separated from their parents during the last administration. Of them, 1,786 “have already been reunified with their parent,” the report said.

That leaves 2,127 children who are still separated from their parents.

The report hints at how long it may take to find their parents, if they are indeed able to found back in their home countries – primarily Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. In the previous 30 days, DHS said, the department was able to reunite just 7 children with their parents.

As CBS News reported, once reunited, families are granted access to mental health services and are eligible for “three years of protection from deportation to try to acquire work permits.”

But speaking to KQED, Lee Gelernt, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued over the family separation policy, said he believes that the number of parents who have not been found is actually lower than DHS suggests. According to the ACLU, the parents of 391 children have not been located.

“The other group are families who have been contacted by us, but were not reunited because the Trump administration only gave them two brutal choices: remain permanently separated from your child, or have your child come back to your home country and back to the very danger from which they fled,” Gelernt said.

Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim, a nonprofit representing the Maya community in Nebraska, said it has been consulting with the DHS task force. It believes many of the remaining children come from indigenous communities in the Americas, complicating the reunification process as these communities are typically the most isolated and impoverished.

“The majority of the children still lost and not returned to their families are Maya,” the group said in a statement on Twitter, a fact it lamented was not acknowledged in the DHS report. “Indigenous erasure will only add further harm,” it said, noting the attacks on their rights in countries such as Guatemala is what drives them “to seek asylum and refugee status in the US.”

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Democrats urge Biden to stop using local police to enforce federal immigration law

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An LED truck displaying messages expressing concern over the continuing mass deportations of Black immigrants drives past the office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) prior to a #BidenAlsoDeports rally on February 15, 2021 in Washington, DC.

  • Sen. Cory Booker and other Democrats want local police to stop enforcing federal immigration law.
  • In a letter, the lawmakers urged DHS Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas to “immediately terminate” the policy.
  • They argue that using local police makes immigrants afraid to report crimes.
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By enlisting local police in efforts to carry out deportations, the federal government is making the country less safe by discouraging immigrants from coming forward to report serious crimes, Democratic lawmakers argued Thursday in an appeal to the Biden administration.

In an April 22 letter to Alejandro Mayorkas, head of the US Department of Homeland Security, Sen. Cory Booker urged the new administration to “immediately terminate” so-called 287(g) agreements, which effectively allow state and local police “to function as federal immigration agents.”

The New Jersey Democrat was joined on the letter by Rep. Mike Quigley, of Illinois, and Washington’s Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Should the Biden administration fail to act, the lawmakers are prepared to fall back on new legislation, “The PROTECT Immigration Act,” repealing the federal government’s authority to deputize state and local law enforcement.

“Immigration enforcement should not be delegated to state and local police departments that are not equipped to enforce immigration laws – it is the job of the federal government,” Sen. Booker said in a statement. “These agreements undermine public safety and result in the racial profiling and harassment of members of the immigrant community.”

Naureen Shah, senior advocacy and policy director at the ACLU, praised the effort to repeal the program. There is a “growing consensus” that such collaboration is harmful, she told Insider, arguing that it “encourages racial profiling and makes everyone less safe.”

What 287(g) does

Under the 287(g) program, initiated by Congress in 1996, participating law enforcement may interrogate suspected noncitizens who have already been arrested; as of July 2020, police departments in 21 states do this, according to the American Immigration Council. Departments in nine states also directly enforce administrative warrants from US Customs and Immigration Enforcement.”

Perhaps the most infamous partner of the federal government was the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department, in Arizona, under Joe Arpaio, which in 2007 had signed an agreement with DHS allowing trained officers to interrogate “any alien or person believed to be an alien.” A 2011 investigation by the US Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division subsequently found the department “engages in racial profiling of Latinos.”

A federal court, the same year, ordered Arpaio to stop detaining people solely for immigration offenses; he refused and was later convicted of criminal contempt.

In light of such abuses, President Barack Obama terminated some previous 287(g) agreements and “generally limited” their use, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. That came after not just unlawful abuse, but evidence that the program was being used to target “noncitizens arrested for misdemeanors and traffic offenses,” not serious offenders, per the Migration Policy Institute.

President Donald Trump, however, expanded the program, signing 23 agreements with local law enforcement in Texas alone. That, along with highly visible mass raids in major cities, was followed by a steep decline in both lawful and undocumented immigrants coming forward to report domestic violence and other crimes, according to law enforcement.

President Biden has rescinded a number of his predecessor’s policies on immigration, resulting in significantly fewer arrests and formal deportations, not including those summarily removed after crossing the border. But he has thus far declined to terminate 287(g) and related programs, such as “Secure Communities,” which allows local law enforcement to share arrested individuals’ fingerprints with ICE.

In February, more than 60 members of Congress urged the president to end those initiatives.

DHS did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

“While we’ve begun a new presidential administration, we still need to put an end to our country’s long history of targeting, profiling, and tearing apart immigrant communities while criminalizing those who call them home,” Rep. Jayapal said in a statement.

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A 100-day moratorium on deportations starts on Friday, Biden administration announces

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Protesters against deportations interrupt Joe Biden during a town hall on November 21, 2019 in Greenwood, South Carolina.

  • The Biden administration will be imposing a 100-day moratorium on most deportations beginning January 22.
  • The pause is “to ensure we have a fair and effective enforcement system.”
  • The move was announced Wednesday night by US Department of Homeland Security.
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The Biden administration will temporarily halt most deportations “to ensure we have a fair and effective immigration enforcement system,” the Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday.

The pause will begin Friday and last 100 days.

President Joe Biden committed to the moratorium on removal proceedings last year while campaigning for the Democratic nomination. That marked a reversal for the candidate, who in 2019 clashed with an immigrant rights activist who had demanded just that.

In a statement, David Pekoske, acting secretary of the DHS, said the pause will allow the department “to review and reset enforcement polices.”

It will also “allow DHS to ensure that its resources are dedicated to responding the most pressing challenges that the United States faces, including immediate operational challenges at the southwest border in the midst of the most serious global public health crisis in a century,” he said.

The statement noted that the moratorium will only apply “for certain noncitizens.” The department did not immediately respond to a request for clarification. During the campaign, Biden committed to halting “any deportations of people already in the United States.”

The move is one of a slew of immigration-related announcements to come in the first hours of the Biden administration.

Earlier in the day, President Biden signed an executive order rescinding his predecessor’s de facto ban on Muslim travelers. He also introduced a comprehensive immigration reform package that would offer permanent residency to migrant farm workers and a pathway to citizenship for more than 11 million undocumented people, winning him early praise from activists and evangelical Christian leaders.

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