Donald Trump’s barbaric “zero tolerance” is no longer getting the prominent cable news and front page coverage it received at the height of the family separation crisis, but it remains a crisis nonetheless, because the administration has said that as nearly 900 families have been reunited, as many as 460 migrant parents may have already been deported by the federal government without their children.
“Government officials sent the status update to U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw just days before a Thursday deadline to reunite as many families as possible,” CNN reports. “The 463 cases mentioned in the report are listed as ‘under review,’ and there are no further details about why the parents had left the country without their children.”
“The government has maintained that any parent deported without their child had the opportunity to bring their kid with them,” CNN continues, “but willingly left without them.” Hold on, because we know that some parents have been coerced into thinking that agreeing to deportation is the only way to get their kids back. “Inside the Port Isabel detention center,” the Atlantic reported earlier this month, “Lilian says agents have assured her that if she abandons her asylum claim and agrees to deportation, she will see her daughter as soon as she boards her flight to Honduras.”
Advocates are also doubtful of the government’s claims. “We have concerns,” said the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Stephen Kang, “about misinformation given to these parents about their rights to fight deportation without their children.” Judge Sabraw had temporarily halted the deportation of reunited families in order to give them some time to consider their options to stay in the U.S., but there’s no indication of when these possibly hundreds of parents were deported.
Judge Sabraw’s deadline to reunite approximately 2,500 kids over age five is just hours away, but this crisis will be nowhere close to done after that. The administration struggled to reunite just 100 children under age five with their parents, saying some of those parents had already been deported. When there’s no indication the federal government has made any effort to reunite that smaller group, what are we supposed to think about potentially hundreds of deported parents?
One couple, Rolando Antonio Bueso Castillo and Adalicia Montecinos, were forced to keep up with their baby son Johan through videos sent by a social worker, after Rolando was deported to Honduras without him after being assured they would be able to leave together. During the months they were apart, the parents missed Johan’s first steps, his first words, and his first birthday. This is criminal, and the actions of this administration merit resignations and investigations, but remember the buck still stops at the top.
Advocates are also calling on Sabraw “to do what this administration seems unwilling to do—reunite all the kids with the families they came with. If parents were coerced into being deported, they should be brought back to the U.S. and admitted on humanitarian parole,” said immigrant rights leader Frank Sharry. “If parents are detained, they should be released with their children into case management programs so they can prepare for their day in court. This is a refugee flow and should be treated as such.”