- 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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