Where Are The Parents Who Were Separated From Their Children And Removed From US?
While the Trump administration scrambles to partially meet a court-ordered Thursday deadline for reunifying immigrant families that it separated at the border, nonprofits are trying to locate 463 parents who were already sent back home without their children.
Only about a dozen have been found so far, according to Erika Pinheiro, an attorney at Al Otro Lado, a pro bono legal services provider that is working with the Women's Refugee Commission, International Social Service and other groups to locate these families in Central America.
Pinheiro explained the difficulties that nonprofits face in trying to find these parents. She said many of the individuals are from indigenous towns in rural areas that are hard to access. Some never went back home.
“Many people obviously had been seeking asylum because they faced danger in the places they came from, so they're not going to go back home," Pinheiro said. "They're living with relatives in different parts of the country, or maybe even making their way back through Mexico to the U.S. border to try to get their children back."
The nonprofits are trying to find deported parents based on their own incomplete lists because the U.S. government has failed to provide complete information regarding the identities of individuals that officials removed from the country without their children.
As nonprofits try to locate these parents, San Diego federal judge Dana Sabraw is considering a request from the ACLU to implement a seven-day stay on the deportations of reunited immigrant families. The 125-page request was filed Wednesday and was made up mostly of testimony from attorneys showing the challenges involved in counseling traumatized families.
The trauma of family separation is REAL & impedes attorney ability to counsel parents before they decide on deportation w/ or w/out kids: "Even benign questions ... produce tears and paralysis." ACLU asks judge to order 7-day stay on removals: https://t.co/yp1LhqgraW @KPBSnews pic.twitter.com/dfucGirqTy— Jean Guerrero (@jeanguerre) July 25, 2018
The ACLU argued in its filing that these families should have at least seven days to decide whether they want to be deported back to their dangerous home countries with their children or alone, leaving their children behind in the U.S.
They need to fully understand their rights and have time to speak to their child's counsel as well as their own, the ACLU said. But the trauma of family separation makes counseling difficult.
Attorney Shalyn Fluharty highlighted the fact that "even benign questions... produce tears and paralysis."
The ACLU filing cited several incidents in which parents who spoke only indigenous languages were asked to sign English-language forms consenting to deportation without their children — forms they didn't understand.
They called the government's strategy "coercive and misleading" and said an intervention by the judge is needed.