As the Trump administration considers a new way to impose a family separation program at the border, immigrant-rights advocates said Wednesday more children were taken from parents or guardians earlier this year than previously reported.
Data provided by the government appears to have under-counted the number of families separated from April through June, when the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy was in effect, immigrant advocates said. Government data did not include all the parents or children separated from other guardians, such as grandparents or older siblings.
A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union earlier this year prompted a federal judge in San Diego to order the government to reunify 2,654 immigrant children separated from their parents. The government has reunited most of the families it claimed were part of the spring wave of separations.
“I think we will go to the administration and see what we can do about it,” Gelernt added. “If we don’t get anywhere with the government, I think it’s likely it will get raised in court and we’ll see how the judge reacts.”
Meanwhile, a new caravan of asylum seekers from Central America is on its way to the United States. That’s on the heels of a record number of people entering in recent months, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.
President Donald Trump had said the “zero tolerance” policies he advocates deter illegal immigration. But many if not most of the border-crossers are coming into the United States to seek legal asylum, advocates say; they are not sneaking into the country. And for people escaping the extreme violence of Latin America — a region that accounts for 8 percent of the world’s population and 33 percent of all homicides — even family separation policies won’t be deterrents, advocates say.
One option being considered by the administration is to offer migrant parents traveling with their children a “binary choice”: stay together in detention for an indeterminate amount of time, possibly years, or agree to allow their children to be released from custody after 20 days, but without them.
Court filings from the government and the ACLU show that most of the 2,654 children separated from their parents during a six-week period earlier this year have been reunified. But 245 of those children were still in the custody of Office of Refugee Resettlement as of Oct. 15, and more than two-thirds of the 175 parents who were deported prior to reunification decided to let their children remain in the U.S. to fight for asylum.
But those numbers might under-count the number of families still separated. For example, hundr of individuals detained by Customs and Border Protection agents between April 19 and Aug. 15 were not counted as part of the original tally, based on a report by Amnesty International, Brané noted.
The number of separations tallied this year didn’t include guardians such as grandparents because the government didn’t count them as “family.” Instead, such cases were classified as fraud, the Amnesty report found. President Trump and other members of his administration have often alleged that immigrants abuse the asylum system, sometimes bringing in children who are not their own.
Amnesty International called the administration’s policy “a deliberate campaign of human rights violations against asylum-seekers.”
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