As of this past weekend, it was unclear how many of the approximate 100 children under the age of five that had been reunited with parents. By last Tuesday’s deadline HHS was saying they had reunified over 50 of the approximate 100 children. Some of the reasons for failure to reunite children included parental failure to pass criminal backgrounds checks around “child cruelty, narcotics, human smuggling and a warrant for robbery and murder.” HHS said ten parents were in custody of the U.S. Marshall or in state or local custody.
In a Friday court filing, the Office of Preparedness in HHS outlined some of the reasons. They also indicated that there were approximately 2551 children and youth ages 5 through 17 that must be reunified by the court-mandated July 26 date.
On June 26, Judge Dana M. Sabraw, United States District Court for Southern California directed HHS and the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Border Control to reunite the more than 2000 children separated children with those under five reunified first. The remainder are to be reunified by July 26 of this month, one month after the Judge’s order.
As far as the 2551 children, Judge Dana Sabraw original order said the government “must immediately take all steps necessary to facilitate regular communication between Class members and their children who remain in ORR custody, ORR foster care, or DHS custody. Within ten (10) days, [the government] must provide parents telephonic contact with their children if the parent is not already in contact with his or her child.”
The advocacy community has pointed out that parents have had to pay for communication via telephone which can cause some obvious challenges for some families without resources. There have also been reports that in the reunification process some parents have had little notice before being told they were being reunited causing increased challenges for the parents and the people trying to support and assist the parents, especially since they are required to move to a different location.
Earlier last week U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee rejected the Trump Administration’s request to overturn the 1997 Flores agreement that restricts child detentions to no more than 20 days. The Judge was highly critical of the Administration and Congress calling the Administration effort to overturn Flores “a cynical attempt” to shift responsibility to the Judiciary for “over 20 years of Congressional inaction and ill-considered executive action that have led to the current stalemate.” Congress may try to preempt the Flores agreement through the appropriations process. (See next article)
Still pending is a court action filed by 17 states on the President’s zero tolerance policies. That suit was filed by the District of Columbia and seventeen states: Washington, California, Maryland, Oregon, New Mexico, New Jersey, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Rhode Island, New York, Vermont, North Carolina, Delaware, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia that seeks to bar the Trump Administration from separating children from their parents.