The Trump administration is refusing to release hundreds of immigrant children from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody who were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border amidst the president’s crackdown on illegal immigration.
Despite Thursday’s court-ordered deadline, the administration claims the remaining 711 children were not “eligible” to be reunited with family members for various reasons which excluded them from reunification.
The federal government says that it could not and should not return more than 400 of the remaining detained children because their parents are no longer in the U.S.
“I’m worried here that we have 460 parents who have now been deported to Central America and there is a very high likelihood that those parents are not going to see their children again,” said John Sandweg, a former acting director of ICE under the Obama administration.
The government also says that the parents of 120 of the 711 children had “waived reunification.”
A court order issued by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego in June gave the government until July 26 to release all minors between the ages of 5 and 17 detained under Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy on illegal immigration back to their parents or family members.
The administration said in court filings Thursday that it did make the deadline. But in reality it discharged only 1,820 of the nearly 2,600 children wrongfully taken from undocumented adults crossing into the U.S. from Mexico. 1,442 children were reunited with their parents meanwhile 378 others released “in other appropriate circumstances.”
“As of Friday morning, the administration can confirm that we have reunified all eligible parents in ICE custody with children,” said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in a statement.
Judge Sabraw praised the effort as “a remarkable achievement” but the fact remains that DHS has yet to reunite 711 children with their families.
“What the government did was reunite upwards of 1,500 children it deemed eligible for reunification and whose parents it could find,” said American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) spokeswoman Stacy Sullivan in a statement.
The ACLU vowed to go back to court on Friday afternoon to fight for reunifying the remaining children with their parents.
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