Democrats in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (September 4) demanded that the Trump administration provide a plan to reunify some 500 undocumented children with their parents. The push comes more than 40 days after the reunification deadline previously established by a federal judge.
In a letter penned by Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland and 18 members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), the lawmakers demanded that Secretary of Homeland Security Kristjen Nielsen and Attorney General Jeff Sessions provide an update on the status of children who remain in detention shelters.
From the letter:
It is unacceptable, given the trauma inflicted on these children and their families, that the administration failed completely to plan for the readily foreseeable consequences of its zero-tolerance policy, neglected to take basic steps to ensure that necessary information critical to reuniting separated family members was maintained and updated for the duration of their time in federal custody, and now, as a result of these omissions and errors, has failed to complete reunification for these separated families.
The missive also accuses the Trump administration of purposefully slowing the reunification process by using minor or unconfirmed criminal charges to disqualify parents. Other parents, the letter alleges, were duped into believing they would be deported with their children when, in fact, the administration planned to keep their children detained.
The House Democrats issued several demands, including an update on the status of the 500 children and the conditions at the child detention centers, in light of several reports of deplorable conditions. The lawmakers also demanded to know how the administration will reunite children with more than 400 parents who have been deported.
As of last week, 497 children remained separated from their parents, 22 of them ages 5 and under. A federal judge in San Diego ordered the administration to reunify families by July 26.
In August, Dana Sabraw, the federal judge overseeing the family reunification process, lauded administration officials for providing updated plans to reunify more than 550 children with their parents, but the reunification process has stalled since then.
Hoyer and the CHC sent a similar letter to Trump administration officials in June, after more than 2,000 children were separated from their parents in the wake of the "zero tolerance" immigration policy that saw the criminal prosecution of adults crossing the United States-Mexico border.
On Tuesday, the Democrats panned the administration’s response to the June letter.
"Deputy Secretary Hargan’s response to our June 26 letter demonstrated that the administration was ill-equipped to answer the basic, factual questions posed in our letter, which resulted in the failure of many of these families being reunified and more than 400 parents deported without their children,” they wrote.