Facing Thursday’s court-imposed deadline to reunite more than 2,500 children between the ages of 5 and 17, the Trump administration said that it has discharged 1,820 children from government custody and reunited them with their parents.
In a court filing late July 26, the U.S. government said it expected to process “all class members found eligible for reunification.” However, hundreds of children remain separated from their parents as a result of the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. After two separate deadlines in 30 days to reunite thousands of children affected by this policy, the fallout from the family separations is far from over.
Here’s a look at the latest numbers and what’s next for families who remain apart.
Which numbers did the government provide?
According to the Department of Justice, this is where the reunifications of families and children ages 5 to 17 stands as of 6 a.m. EDT on July 26, 2018:
The total number of children in this age group the U.S. has identified as separated at the border: 2,551.
- Of these, 1,820 children were discharged from the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
- Within this group of discharged children, 1,442 of them were reunited with parents who were in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Another 378 were released “in other appropriate circumstances,” including discharges to other sponsors or children who had turned 18 years old.
- 20 children on further review “were not separated from parents by DHS.”
As has been the case with previous court updates, the numbers are approximate and subject to change. Officials for the U.S. government and the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been representing the separated families, are due back in court today to appear before U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego.
In a statement to the PBS NewsHour, a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said the number of eligible children now reunited is zero.
“As of Friday morning, the administration can confirm that we have reunified all eligible parents in ICE custody with children,” the statement read. “The administration continues to comply in good faith with the court’s requests while protecting the safety and well-being of all children in our care.”
Before the latest numbers were released, the ACLU’s Lee Gelernt said that the government “shouldn’t be proud of the work they’re doing on reunification,” while further criticizing the administration’s “cruel, inhumane policy.”
What about the families deemed “not eligible” for reunification?
The U.S. government said 711 children were found “either not eligible for reunification or not available for discharge at this time.” Officials broke down that number as follows:
- Of those found ineligible, 431 children have parents who are no longer in the U.S. This is a number that worries immigration attorneys and advocates because these adults may have already been deported.
- 120 children have parents who waived their reunification rights. As previously reported, ACLU compiled personal declarations from several attorneys who have met with detained parents as part of a court filing on Wednesday. Many of the attorneys said some parents felt they were coerced into signing documents that waived their rights to reunite with their children. Others also said the forms were difficult to understand due to a language barrier or misinformation from immigration officials.
- 94 children with parents whose locations are “under case file review.”
- 79 children whose parents who were released from custody and into the U.S. (or “interior”).
- 46 children whose parents who have “red flags” resulting from an unspecified “case file review.”
- 21 children whose parents had “red flags” from their background checks.
- 7 children whose reunification was “precluded by plaintiffs and court order in separate litigation.”
The ACLU said in Thursday’s joint filing that while it can see that many families have been reunited, the government has yet to provide them with sufficient information that would allow the group to verify and locate the reunited families.
What happens now?
ACLU has signaled that it will start focusing on families that remain separated outside this court order.
“Close to a thousand parents remain separated from their children,” ACLU said in Thursday’s court filing. That approximate number includes hundreds of parents who were removed from the U.S. possibly without their children, children who were deemed “ineligible” for this court order, and parents whose cases are still “under review.”
Among this group are also 40 children with no discernable parental information, name or location attached. “These are troubling cases,” ACLU said in the filing, requesting that the government explain its efforts to the court on how it plans make contact with these parents. “There is a risk that these children will be indefinitely separated from their parents,” ACLU wrote.
The group also requested that the government elaborate on why dozens of parents were deemed “ineligible” for reunification. Some parents, for example, were not reunited because of their criminal history, the government said. Information about these exclusions “was too general to be useful,” ACLU said.
Also, remember, there’s uncertainty about the “ineligible” youngest children — under age 5 — that remain separated from their parents past the July 10 deadline for reunification. ACLU wants additional information on this age group as well.
The timeline on reuniting those still separated is unclear.
What else can we expect from Friday’s hearing?
In Friday’s hearing, Judge Sabraw is also expected to settle the disagreement by both parties over the deadline by which families must decide the next steps in the waiting period after they’re reunited and before they’re readied for deportation.
ACLU is hoping the judge bans deportations of families slated for removal for seven days after they’re reunified because, the group argued, parents must have “sufficient time to consult about what might be the most consequential decision of their lives.”
The government, however, has argued for a shorter waiting period, saying the proposed extension of time by the ACLU would strap the already limited bed space at the country’s detention centers and cost taxpayers an estimated $319 per day for each detained family member. U.S. officials have said they want parents to make a decision to leave the country with or without their children within 48 hours of being reunited.
One more thing.
Earlier this week, the Department of Homeland Security inspector general responded to lawmakers’ concerns over family separations, saying it was “broadly reviewing” the issue.
The DHS internal watchdog also said it would look into the conditions of detention facilities belonging to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.