Family Separation: Judge Orders Trump Administration to Find Missing Parents

By Alfonso Serrano Jul 30, 2018

The federal judge overseeing the reunification of some 2,500 immigrant children with their parents has given the Trump administration until Wednesday (August 1) to provide information to locate hundreds of parents, after the federal government failed to meet a July 26 deadline to reunite all families.

On Friday, federal attorneys told U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw that 711 children remain separated from their families because hundreds of parents were considered ineligible for reunification due to deportation or criminal records.

Some 430 immigrant parents have been deported since the government imposed its "zero tolerance" immigration policy in early May and began criminally prosecuting adults. But according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit earlier this year to stop family separations at the border, the federal government is doing nothing to find these deported parents.

Some 300 other parents, according to U.S. officials, needed "further evaluation" before being reunited with their children, or were deemed "ineligible" for reunification due to criminal records. The fate of the children of these parents remains unclear.

On Sunday, President Donald Trump defended his family separation policy. On Twitter he said that immigrant parents use their children for "sinister purposes" when crossing the border and threatened to shut down the government if Democrats don’t vote for increased border security—a threat he has made in the past.

The ACLU, meanwhile, claims that dozens of immigrant parents were duped or coerced into waiving their reunification rights. In a 120-page filing submitted last week, attorneys for the civil rights group recounted dozens of stories of parents who were misled into waiving their rights and agreeing to deportation.

“Based on my discussions with these fathers, it appears that none were told the implications of what they were signing or had an understanding of what they were signing,” New York-based attorney Luis Cruz said in the filing

“The manner in which they signed these forms was universally described as intimidating and very stressful," he added. "Each described feeling hopeless and believing that they had no alternative but to sign the form.”

The ACLU also asked Judge Sabraw to stay deportations for reunited parents for at least one week, so parents have time to decide to fight their deportation cases or leave their children behind in the U.S. 

Sabraw is expected to issue an order on that request as early as Monday (June 30).