Finding Deported Parents Should Be Someone Else's Job

Guatemalan Elsa Ortiz who was deported from the U.S. in June asks to have her son back as she demonstrates outside the hotel in Guatemala City where Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen met with authorities from Guatemala El Salvador Honduras

Guatemalan Elsa Ortiz who was deported from the U.S. in June asks to have her son back as she demonstrates outside the hotel in Guatemala City where Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen met with authorities from Guatemala El Salvador Honduras

The Trump administration believes that the responsibility for finding parents who were deported after they were separated from their children should rest with immigration advocacy groups, not with the federal government, according to a court document filed Thursday. In a court document filed Thursday, per CNN, Justice Department lawyers said the ACLU should use its "network of law firms, NGOs, volunteers and others" to track down the parents and report back on whether they desire a reunion or will allow their children to remain in the USA to fight for legal status. But at a court hearing Friday, U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw noted that the government has made little headway in locating - let alone reuniting - the parents of more than 400 children in families in which the adult has been deported or has returned on their own to their home country, mainly Guatemala or Honduras. The report gives a sense of the complex challenges ahead for both US officials and immigration lawyers in locating the parents who are no longer in the United States.

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Cmdr. Jonathan White, the public-health official who has led the reunification effort for HHS, told the senators that, while signing away reunification rights may be hard to fathom, "many parents have made this journey to deliver their children here because that is the desperate, last act of a parent trying to take the child out of some of the most unsafe places to raise a child in the world".

More than 460 parents have been deported without their children, and the ACLU has reportedly spoken with several of the 126 parents who left after signing so-called "voluntary departure orders"-and learned that they were coerced into agreeing to deportation".

"Not only was it the government's unconstitutional separation practice that led to this crisis, but the United States Government has far more resources than any group of NGOs (no matter how many NGOs and law firms are willing to help),'" they wrote.

Even when information is being shared, the ACLU argues that it's only coming in pieces. "In addition, because deported parents may be hiding from persecutors, it is often not easy to track down exactly where they may be located".

Other times there are streets with no residence number, limiting the usefulness. It argued that the government has had access to possible phone numbers of some of the deported parents but failed to use the contact information ahead of deadlines assigned by Sabraw.

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The latest figures show that 34 parents waived the chance to be back together with their children - compared with the 120 that the government reported a week earlier.

Once a parent chooses to reunite with a child, the ACLU asked that the government reunite the family within seven days.

Gelernt said there is also concern for non-profit volunteers who might venture into unsafe countrysides in strife-ridden Guatemala or Honduras, looking for parents, when they might instead be able to pick up a telephone.

The two parties filed Thursday's joint report ahead of a status conference with the federal judge on Friday afternoon. During the hearing, a senior Department of Health and Human Services official said he repeatedly warned the Trump administration that the separation policy would not be in "the best interest of the child". Some government officials pushed back, defending the rationale for the separation policy.

Hundreds of the reunified families are in custody in family detention centers run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, while hundreds more have been released to await immigration proceedings.

But when Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) dared five Trump officials to say the zero-tolerance border strategy was a success, not one raised a hand.

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