Our Government's Plan to Reunite Remaining Families - and the Reality of Desperate Parents

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according to a recent associated press poll, most americans agree that our government's actions have been terribly inadequate when it comes to reunifying the families that were separated at the u.s. border. there's a general consensus that agencies need to be restructured and revised so that a crisis like this never happens again. however, the crisis continues for hundreds of families that the government separated without a plan to reunite them.

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In a congressional hearing on August 16th, immigration officials testified on the status and handling of unaccompanied migrant children at the US border. 

After criticizing the federal officials' handling of the situation thus far, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri expressed concern over a Homeland Security subcommittee report finding that the Department of Health and Human Services didn't know which agencies to contact in the states about the welfare of the children. (Click here to watch)

The bottom line being: Children were still separated from their deported parents and it seemed the government was unsure of what to do about it.

Migrant parents reported to authorities that there was confusion and chaos in the process of trying to reclaim their children. Some were told to sign papers that they didn't fully understand, while others were put on planes and promised that their children were soon to follow.

"We've had some of them tell us they were told to get on a plane and that their child was going to be on another plane and were going to meet them at the airport when they arrived in Honduras. And then obviously, that was not the case," said Efren Olivares, a program director at the Texas Civil Rights Project. (source: Ben Schamisso, for Newsy)

Under pressure from District Courts and members of the Congress, U.S. officials have been pressured to come up with a plan to finish the process of reunification and not rely on loose claims that many parents waived the right to reclaim their children. This process will exclude a number of children whose parents have been "red flagged" and deemed ineligible for reunification by U.S. officials.

The current government plan has been praised by District Court judges and includes cooperation from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the organization that filed the original lawsuit for reunification against the government.

THE NEW PLAN:

According to the newly submitted plan, the government will adhere to a process for reunifying children with five main steps.

After resolving safety and parentage concerns and establishing contact with parents who were removed from the US, the next step will be to "determine parental intention" with respect to the child. During this phase, the plan states that the ACLU will develop a form for parents who opt to waive reunification with their kids. Children whose parents waive reunification will become part of the US government's Office of Refugee Resettlement sponsorship process.

The final steps in the outlined process are to "resolve immigration status of minors to allow for reunification" and to facilitate "transportation of minors for physical reunification with parent in country of origin."

American embassies in the child's country of origin will work with officials in that country to coordinate the process of reunifying parents and children.

(Source: Clare Foran and Sonia Moghe, CNN)

While the latest plan has received praise, the reality for parents desperately trying to get their kids back is an ongoing nightmare. This story, reported by The Texas Tribune, highlights some of the issues that are still going on near our U.S. Borders.  

David Xol from Guatemala was arrested and later separated from his 7 year old son, Byron at the processing center, Xol told Byron. “Don’t worry, son, it’s all part of the journey,”  as he was led away in shackles. On May 21, Xol pled guilty to illegal entry in a mass trial at the federal courthouse in McAllen. When he returned to the processing center, immigration officials informed him that under "the new law signed by President Trump," he wouldn’t see Byron again anytime soon.

“Your son is going to the U.S. and you to Guatemala,” he said the officials declared as they handed him an immigration document. “Sign, because if you don’t, you are going to be sent to Guatemala anyway.”

Xol, 27, begged the officials to let him stay in the country with Byron — or at least to deport them together. But when they wouldn’t budge, he finally relented, signing a form the Americans described to him as his own deportation order — all of it written in English, which he didn’t understand. He was deported to Guatemala on May 28.

“To not cause any problems, I signed,” he said in Spanish in an interview earlier this month. “I am the type of person who, if you tell me to do something, I complete it.”

Nearly three months later, Byron remains in a shelter in Baytown, east of Houston, where about once a week he calls his mother, pleading with her in their native Q’eqchi’ — a Mayan language spoken in the Americas since long before the Spanish conquest — to send him back to his family in Guatemala. (source: Juan Luis García Hernández, Pia Flores, Nómada and David Yaffee-Bellany, Jay Root, The Texas Tribune)

It's clear that we have a long way to go to ensure that our government keeps its promise to reunite all children and families. 

We hope you will join us in our effort to keep the awareness of this issue current until all of the children and parents who were separated at the border under this administration's "zero tolerence policy" have been reunited. 

By Michael J Krass

 

casey altman