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Where Are The Parents Who Were Separated From Their Children And Removed From US?

Immigrant families seeking asylum wait in line at the central bus station aft...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: Immigrant families seeking asylum wait in line at the central bus station after they were processed and released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Friday, June 29, 2018.

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.

RELATED: Judge Faults Government Tracking Of Separated Families

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 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.

RELATED: Administration Reports Nearly 1,200 Family Reunifications

Thursday is the deadline for reunifying immigrant parents and children that the Trump administration separated. Meanwhile, nonprofits are working to locate more than 400 parents who were sent back home without their children.


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