A group of Senate Democrats is demanding that the Trump administration immediately work to reunify the more than 500 immigrant children in federal custody who were separated from their parents after crossing the southern border.
The 17 Democrats, led by Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.) sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen calling for immediate action to reunite the families of 539 immigrant children still in government custody because of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.
“Each passing day that DHS fails to act to reunite separated immigrant children with their parents unacceptably exacerbates trauma that this administration has needlessly caused for children and their families seeking humanitarian protection,” the senators wrote.
The Trump administration was sent scrambling to fulfill hundreds of reunifications after a federal judge ordered in June that the government reunite families separated under its since-rescinded policy by July 26. The initial policy, announced in April, led to the separation of thousands of immigrant families apprehended after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.
A majority of the remaining children were left behind when the administration deported their parents. As of the latest update, the administration said they deported parents of 386 children. The Democrats demanded DHS locate those parents and offer them the opportunity to return to the U.S. and apply for asylum.
The administration is also claiming that 87 children are “ineligible” for reunification because their parent has a serious criminal record.
However, attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union representing the families said they haven’t seen evidence from the administration regarding the allegations, and there’s no process for parents to challenge them.
“If there is credible evidence that a parent poses an imminent risk of harm to their child and a parent is unable to rebut that evidence, a state child welfare agency, not the federal government, is the appropriate entity to determine whether there is abuse or neglect or a child cannot safely be placed in their parent’s care,” the Democrats wrote.
Another court update on the reunifications is scheduled for Friday.
BY NATHANIEL WEIXEL – 08/15/18