More Than 400 Immigrant Children Remain Separated From Their Parents
It's been two months since a San Diego federal judge ordered the reunification of hundreds of immigrant families that had been separated by U.S. authorities, and 416 children remain separated from their parents.
In a joint status update filed with the court Thursday, the ACLU said dozens of parents who remain separated from their children are being denied reunification based on criminal histories and red flags that are questionable.
The filing cites the case of a mother who is being denied access to her four-year-old child due to an outstanding warrant in her home country for alleged gang affiliation.
"The mother denies this allegation, and at her immigration bond hearing, the immigration judge expressly found that this warrant was not sufficient evidence that the mother was a danger to the community," the filing states. "This child is suffering greatly in detention and is at particular risk of grievous and irreparable harm."
The ACLU also pointed out the case of a father who is being denied access to his two-year-old child due to pleading guilty to an assault in 2010, "which has no bearing on his current dangerousness or ability to care for his child."
The filing asks judge Dana Sabraw to help expedite the resolution of these cases.
In the filing, the government said it looked into reports of inoperative phone numbers for parents who were either deported or sent back into the United States. But in 47 of 50 cases, there was recent successful contact between parent and child.
A steering committee formed by the ACLU has made significant progress in contacting parents and confirming parent and child wishes with respect to reunifications, according to the report.
The ACLU earlier this year filed a class-action suit demanding that families separated at the border be reunited.
ACLU national attorney Lee Gelernt has said that many parents who have been separated from their children for many months are seeking rapid reunification in their country of origin, mostly in Central America.
But in some cases, removed parents may not have availed themselves of their right to seek asylum because they were misled or coerced into believing that asserting their asylum claim would delay or preclude reunification, Gelernt said.
The plaintiffs' steering committee said the number of removed parents identified by the government is 413. Thirty-two of those parents have no phone number, the plaintiffs said.