The Trump administration released a statement late Saturday evening detailing that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has already returned 522 children to their parents and that a plan is in place to reunite the remaining 2,053 “separated minors” still in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
“The United States government knows the location of all children in its custody and is working to reunite them with their families,” the DHS statement read. “This process is well-coordinated.”
DHS Saturday night press release – we know where the kids are and will reunite in order to deport the families. pic.twitter.com/jXlHvOy2Gn
— (((Greg Siskind))) (@gsiskind) June 24, 2018
These reunions, however, won’t happen happen quickly.
Under the plan, children will be eventually reunited with their parents only after the parents’ deportation proceedings are completed. In essence, the families will either be reunited before they are deported back to the dangerous communities they fled from.
If the parents are released from detention, they may apply to serve as the child’s sponsor under HHS rules. Deportation proceedings, however, can take months to complete, and DHS officials have not said whether families would be reunited in the meantime — even in cases where the family is planning to claim asylum.
The fact sheet also says children are given the opportunity to speak with a “vetted parent, guardian or relative” within 24 hours of arriving at a facility run by HHS. Many migrant parents have said, however, that when they attempt to call the number provided to them, the calls wouldn’t go through or no one answered the phone. When a call has gone through, parents have often been told by someone on the line that that they would get a return call back, which is of no use to an individual held at a detention center.
“When they do get a phone call, it’s a one-to-two minute phone call and the kids frequently don’t know where they are,” Sirine Shebaya, a senior staff attorney with Muslim Advocates, told Reuters. “Some kids know, ‘OK I’m in Michigan,’ but they don’t know any more than that.
Meanwhile, NBC News reported that many parents have signed paperwork leading to their own deportation, meaning some parents of the more than 2,000 migrant children may no longer be in the country.
NEW: DHS official tells me this morning separated parents were quickly given the option to sign paperwork leading to deportation. Many chose do so.
That would mean a *large* percentage of parents of the 2,053 kids left in HHS custody may no longer be in USA.
Asked for numbers.
— Jacob Soboroff (@jacobsoboroff) June 24, 2018
The release of the DHS plan comes after days of confusion, following President Donald Trump’s reversal of the family separation policy he put in place.
On Wednesday, Trump issued an executive order to “keep families together,” but the damage had already been done. Over 2,000 children have been separated from their parents and as a result, may have suffered emotional trauma or other damaging mental health issues.