The Washington Post: “Parents separated from their kids returned to the U.S. to be reunited. They’ve been detained for almost a month.”

by Joseph McKeown

Twenty-nine parents who were separated from their children and removed to their home countries in Central America last year traveled to the US/Mexico border last month with the hope of reuniting with their children in the US. The twenty-nine parents, some who have been separated from their children for nearly a year, presented themselves at the US/Mexico border on March 2. The parents asked to be allowed back into the US to resume their asylum applications and to be reunited with their children, who are in American foster homes, shelters, or with relatives. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told them they had reached capacity and therefore could not allow them to enter the US, according to Sandra Cordero, director of immigrant-advocacy group Families Belong Together. But after about ten hours of waiting, the parents were escorted into the US through Calexico, California. A month later, however, seventeen of those parents are still in a detention facility

Four democratic US senators, including Catherine Cortez Masto, Kamala D. Harris, Richard Blumenthal, and Jeff Merkley, have written to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen decrying the parents’ treatment. “It is imperative that these parents be released, reunited with their children, and allowed to continue their cases in immigration court,” the senators wrote. "These families have already suffered significant trauma at the hands of the US government. Given the grave risks to the health and wellbeing of these children and families, we urge you not to prolong their separation.” Paige D. Hughes, an ICE spokeswoman, issued a response to the parents’ cases: “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is working with the Department of Justice to review these cases. In the meantime, ICE is facilitating communications between family members once the relationships are verified.” 

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, more than 2,700 children were separated from their families at the US/Mexico border last year and about 430 of those parents were removed from the US without their children. Even though President Trump signed an executive order that supposedly ended the “zero tolerance” family separation policy in late June 2018, the Texas Civil Rights Project reported that dozens of parents and legal guardians were still being separated from their children. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit asking the government to allow 52 parents who were separated from their children back into the US to pursue their asylum claims. Twenty-nine parents decided to try entering the US, which led to seventeen being detained. ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt, who is handling the lawsuit, said the detainment of the seventeen parents is yet another instance of the government refusing to fix the harm caused by the cruel family separation policy. “Given what these parents have been through, we would have hoped the government would have reunited them with their children while they wait for their hearings, or at least given them hearings promptly,” he told the Washington Post.  Many of the affected parents have been waiting to obtain information about their children. One Guatemalan father told MSNBC: "Time doesn't matter…Our love for our child has no price."