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First Deadline for Family Reunification

Colleen Muñoz

July 10, 2018

Today marks the 20-day deadline to reunite children migrants with their parents. In the alternative, federal officers must place children with appropriate sponsors. So today we ask: has the government met their deadline? Unfortunately, no.

Government officials have refused to release exact numbers to identify the number of detained children separated from their parents. Further, their estimated number of children in government custody has only increased.

Mass separation arose from the President Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy criminally prosecuting all immigrants entering the United States illegally. The United States federal government imprisons criminal adults in separate federal detention centers than minors. Once immigrant parents stepped foot on American soil without authorization, President Trump’s administration detained them as criminals and forcefully separated them from their children. The children were sent to refugee resettlement shelters and government facilities throughout sixteen different states across the country. Meanwhile, immigrant adults were overflowing detention centers at the border and were relocated to facilities all around the United States.

In June 2018, US District Judge Dana Sabraw from the Southern District of California, issued a preliminary injunction mandating that all migrant children who were forcibly separated from their parents as a result of President Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, be alas reunited with their parents. Judge Sabraw declared July 10, 2018 as the final reunification deadline for all children under the age of five. All other remaining children must be reunited with their parents by July 26, 2018.

Government agencies have adopted several methods in an attempt to meet their reunification deadline. At the forefront of their methods, agencies are conducting cheek swab DNA tests on all detainees. In the wake of failing to properly register the parents and children upon their arrival at the border, government officials justify their unconsented DNA testing in the spirit of child safety. An anonymous government official claimed, “the safety and security is paramount, and it is not uncommon for children to be trafficked or smuggled by those claiming to be parents.”

The approaching deadline has caused several problems for the Trump administration to adhere to. Some of the parents have been deported, few have been released, and many others remain in federal custody charged with criminal offenses as a result of Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy. So long as the parents remain in federal prisons, their children will not be reunited.

On Monday, the Trump administration made a desperate attempt to overturn a long-standing precedent which forbids extended detention of children in federal custody beyond 20 days. U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee of California criticized the Trump administration’s plea as a “cynical attempt to undo a longstanding court settlement.”

The government has created a list of 102 children under five years of age to reunite with their parents. Of the 102 children, only 54 are expected to be reunited with their parents by the mandated deadline. The remaining children separated from their parents rises to a figure upwards of 3,000. They have until July 26, 2018.