U.S. Customs and Border Protection houses unaccompanied migrant children who have crossed into the U.S.

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The Trump administration missed its deadline to reunify immigrant families. Now what?

Over 1,000 children still aren't reunited with their parents.


Samantha Grasso

Layer 8

Posted on Jul 27, 2018   Updated on May 21, 2021, 10:01 am CDT

Last month, a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to reunite all immigrant families who had been separated at the border within 30 days. However, hours before the yesterday’s deadline, an estimated 1,000 children were still waiting to be reunited with their parents.

Only 1,442 of 2,551 children between 5 and 17 years old had been reunited—most of whom had been separated under the administration’s “zero tolerance” policyaccording to MSNBC. An estimated 900 parents separated from their children have final orders of deportation, meaning that once the family is reunified, they’re being deported to their country of origin, from which they might have left because of threats of violence. And prior to Thursday’s deadline, the Trump administration also missed the previous deadline to reunify families with children younger than 5 years old on July 10.

However, the 1,000 children left to reunify doesn’t include those who are deemed “ineligible” for reunification by the administration. Another 120 parents have waived their rights to be reunified with their children, the Texas Tribune reported. While the government claimed that 16 parents “changed their minds” from the former 136 total, attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union who were representing the parents say that the parents often had no idea what they signed, didn’t intend to give up their rights, and were coerced into doing so. By CNN’s count, parents who have criminal records have been lumped into this count, bringing the “ineligible” parents to 191.

An additional 431 children are in the U.S. while their parents have already been deported, by MSNBC’s count (CNN reported that 463 parents, meanwhile, have been deported). The ACLU has filed a seven-day temporary stay to stop more parents from being deported without being reunified with their children. And as of Tuesday, another 260 parents’ cases are still being investigated, including parents who the government can’t find, or can’t be confirmed being the parent of the child, or have had their children released to a family member or friend.

Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst and immigration lawyer at Migration Policy Institute, told Newsweek earlier this week that if the government were to miss its deadline, which it did, it could face fines or imprisonment of related officials. But it is more likely that the administration will be forced to give the court detailed information on reunifications moving forward.

But what does that mean for the families right now? How can we ensure that the Trump administration stays accountable now that deadlines already passed and the media frenzy has already died down?

Families Belong Together, one of the organizations leading the cause to demonstrate again family separations, hosted events on the Thursday deadline and is continuing to host “We Demand Justice” events this Saturday. The group has compiled a nation-wide map of their demonstrations for potential attendees.

“I wish we could say we are surprised that the administration has failed to meet these deadlines, but we aren’t,” Anna Tarkov, director of media and communications at Families Belong Together, told the Daily Dot in an email. “Nothing in this government’s past actions or statements would lead us to believe these deadlines would be met. By their own admission, the Trump administration separated these families in a cruel and punitive measure with no plans to reunify them.”

Across the internet, people have shown support for these immigrant families by sharing photos and videos of these demonstrations, one of them being the “I am a child” march in Washington, D.C. The march pays homage to the 1968 “I am a man” march led by sanitation workers in Memphis.

Tarkov said if you can’t make any of the events on Saturday, there are other ways to help reunification efforts. First is by participating in the organization’s Lunchtime for Change events held online every Wednesday, in which participants are given a different action to take every week.

Families Belong Together is also helping to organize national rolling hunger strikes. Starting Monday, the strikes will be held in solidarity with mothers in detention who are striking because they aren’t allowed to speak with their children on the phone. You can sign up here.

You can also sign this petition demanding Congress establish a legitimate reunification task force, or donate to Families Belong Together and RAICES’ efforts to reunify families. Also, don’t forget to support the grannies who are rallying traveling from all over the country to McAllen, Texas, next week.

“What people can do is continue to show up and stay loud on this issue,” Tarkov said. “There is a lot going on and the news cycle moves on quickly, but we cannot forget these families and these children who have been irreparably harmed by our own government in the service of a racist, xenophobic agenda.”

Editor’s Note: The story has been updated with comment from Families Belong Together.

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*First Published: Jul 27, 2018, 11:58 am CDT