The government promises to reunify families but can’t explain how
After President Donald Trump announced the suspension of measures to separate immigrant families detained at the border, attention has now focused on locating the children and evaluating the true reunification measures that the government promises to put in place.
It’s no surprise that Donald Trump’s disastrous administration would suspend measures and agreements without having a replacement plan.
We have seen it with the migratory ban on travelers from Muslim countries, with the suspension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and now with the separation of immigrant families detained at the border.
After President Trump announced last week that his administration would put a halt to the separation of immigrant children from their parents - not without first having awakened one of the most arduous criticisms against his government so far - officials issued a fact sheet claiming that "more than 2,000 children are still waiting to be reunited with their parents," and detailed some aspects of the reunification process, according to NBC News.
The document explains that, "as part of the process of apprehension, detention and prosecution" of immigrants - both adults and children - each individual goes through the Office of Customs and Border Protection (CBP); the children are sent to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and the parents to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), who "play their role in the reunification".
"This process is well coordinated," the government assures.
While CBP claims to have "reunified 522 undocumented alien children" separated from their parents as a result of the "zero tolerance" policy, the government hopes that all remaining families can be reunited, except in the case that "the family relationship cannot be confirmed, it is believed that the adult is a threat to the safety of the child or the adult is a criminal alien."
Despite the goodwill, the document sheds little light on the true procedures or the time contemplated to reunify these families once and for all.
The statement also assures that children have been given the opportunity to communicate with a "vetted" family member during the first 24 hours of their detention, but activists and organizations have informed NBC News that "it can take weeks for parents to be tracked down and able to communicate with their children by phone.”
To compound the issue, the saturation of immigrant detention centers on the border has prompted authorities to transfer minors to other centers around the country, "in Michigan and Maryland, in foster homes in California and shelters in Virginia," explained the Washington Post. Children are confined to "cold and institutional settings with adults who are not permitted to touch them or with foster parents who do not speak Spanish but who hug them when they cry."
The report describes the procedures for counting, health care and confinement to which children are subjected, placed under the care of employees who are often not specialized to meet their needs and, in the case of mental health counselors, are often recommended not to talk to therapists for fear that the information may be used against them or against their parents by the government.
Thus, family reunification doesn’t seem to be a simple problem to solve.
In the midst of anguish and stress, many of the officials have said that "children sometimes don’t know their parents’ names or don’t know their own birth dates or how to spell their names," the Post continues.
Simultaneously, lawyers and activists work tirelessly to help parents detained at the border to locate their children, while the Department of Health and Human Services announced on Saturday that they would "do their best" to "assist in the reunification" of the families without giving specifications of the process they intend to carry out.
Finally, the government has made available to "any parent or guardian who wants to determine if their child is in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)", to contact the National Call Center of ORR (www.acf.hhs.gov/orr/resource/orr-national-call-center), at 1-800-203-7001 or via email at [email protected]