The controversial “zero tolerance” policy of Donald Trump at the southern border revealed certain problems for lawyers trying to reunite held children with their parents. While attorneys reported to a federal judge that the parents of 545 children could not be located, it turned out to be over a hundred higher, at 666.
In an email, the lead lawyer handling the effort to locate relatives of the children, Steven Herzog, said that about 666 children, about 20% were under 5 years old when separated from their parents, remain separated. The new number was found out to be that the government failed to provide contact numbers for 129 of the children. Herzog wrote in the email, “We would appreciate the government providing any available updated contact information, or other information that may be helpful in establishing contact for all 666 of these parents,” addressed to the attorneys of the US Justice Department.
The “zero tolerance” policy was imposed at the southern border with Mexico between April and June 2018. However, a pilot program before in the El Paso sector also separated families. Most of the children were taken from their parents during the pilot program, but the rest came from the “zero tolerance” policy.
Deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. Lee Gelernt, said the new number “includes individuals in addition to 545 for whom we got no information from government that would allow meaningful searches but are hopeful the government will now provide with that information.”
A House Judiciary Committee report revealed last month that the administration knew fully well that it wouldn’t be able to reunite migrant families under the separation policies, but decided to implement it anyway. The policy seized about 3,000 children from their parents, including many with physical and mental disabilities, and the parents are believed to have been deported from the US.
It was also revealed that in 2018, Trump administration senior adviser Stephen Miller, who has extremist views on immigration matters, proposed extending the family separation policies so that 25,000 additional children would be seized from their parents, including those legally presented at ports of entry seeking asylum.
You can just imagine the psychological and emotional trauma for the children, and their parents. US officials frequently told them that they would “never see each other again.” Physicians for Human Rights considered this as a form of torture and “state-sanctioned child abuse.” Some of the children were handed over to US families, securing the notion that these kids would never see their real parents again. Some would call that similar to kidnapping.
After massive public outrage, the administration rolled back the policy. Stories of a breast-feeding infant torn away from its mother, and a father committing suicide after being separated from his wife and kids added fuel to the fire. Whether they were true or not, still, the trauma is clearly evident.
President-elect Joe Biden vowed to create a task force to help reunite all the separated children with their parents. He termed the family separation policy “criminal.” He should also make sure that those responsible get prosecuted for the atrocious implementation of such policy. We just have to wait and see what happens next.
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