WASHINGTON, July 13 — US officials have reunited 57 children under age five with their parents who crossed the border without authorisation, but nearly four dozen remain separated beyond a court-ordered deadline, the White House said yesterday.
Donald Trump’s administration has faced domestic and international outcry over its announced “zero tolerance” policy of arresting all those who cross the border illegally, and separating parents from the children they brought with them.
A federal judge ordered the reunification of all children under five with their families by July 10.
Of the 103 children in that category, just 57 were reunited by 7:00 am Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Health and Human Services Department (HHS) said.
The remaining 46 children were deemed “ineligible” due to multiple concerns over their guardians, including 11 adults with serious criminal history like charges or convictions for murder, child cruelty, smuggling or domestic violence.
Seven adults were determined to not be the child’s parent, while 12 parents had already been deported.
One child under age five has been detained for more than a year because the parent’s location is not known, DHS said. Another has a parent with a contagious disease, and one has been abused by the parent.
US authorities said they were seeking appropriate sponsors for those remaining in custody.
“The American people gave this administration a mandate to end the lawlessness at the border, and President Trump is keeping his promise to do exactly that,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a joint statement announcing the reunifications.
“Our agencies’ careful vetting procedures helped prevent the reunification of children with an alleged murderer, an adult convicted of child cruelty, and adults determined not to be the parent of the child,” they added.
The US government came under fierce international criticism for forcibly separating thousands of families, most of them from Central America and seeking asylum due to violence in their home countries.
The backlash led Trump to suspend the separations, which were ordered as part of the administration’s effort to deter migrants from illegally crossing the Mexican border.
The United States has some 12,000 migrant children in detention, the majority of whom crossed the border without their parents.
There are between 2,000 and 3,000 children above age five who remain separated from their parents, and the judge has ordered they be united by July 26.
Many of the reunited families were being released reportedly wearing ankle monitors, under orders to report to all required immigration court hearings and to avoid criminal and gang activity.
“Those found to be removable from the country by a federal immigration judge will be removed,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement official Matthew Albence said.
Democrats have long assailed the border policy as chaotic and inhumane.
“It’s clear that children were taken from their parents with absolutely no plan to reunite them, and that brought untold havoc to the lives of thousands of children and their parents,” Senator Dianne Feinstein said. — AFP