Children kidnapped from their parents by the Trump administration under a 2017 “piloting” of what was to become the family separation policy at the southern border are still separated three years later because advocacy groups haven’t been able to reunite them with their parents due to the U.S. quickly and intentionally deporting them without a trace, NBC News reports.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a new court filing that while advocates tasked with reuniting families by the court have reached the deported parents of more than 550 kids separated under the pilot, they still haven’t been able to contact the parents of 545 children. The filing said that of those 545 children, advocates can’t find the parents of 283 kids at all, even after “time-consuming and arduous on-the-ground searches.”
“Unlike the 2,800 families separated under zero tolerance in 2018, most of whom remained in custody when the policy was ended by executive order, many of the more than 1,000 parents separated from their children under the pilot program had already been deported before a federal judge in California ordered that they be found,” Julia Ainsley and Jacob Soboroff report.
The U.S. quickly deported these parents to Central America “with few records,” The Washington Post said, taking down “incomplete and often inaccurate data” with absolutely no plan in place on how to reunite them. Now as a result of the administration’s intentional cruelty, children have in effect been orphaned by the state and are still living with sponsors, ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt told NBC News.
"People ask when we will find all of these families, and sadly, I can't give an answer. I just don't know," he told NBC News. "But we will not stop looking until we have found every one of the families, no matter how long it takes. The tragic reality is that hundreds of parents were deported to Central America without their children, who remain here with foster families or distant relatives."
Adding onto this crisis is that the novel coronavirus pandemic has only stifled on-the-ground efforts to locate deported parents. “We had to completely stop because of the pandemic,” Justice in Motion defender Dora Melara told KQED about search efforts in Central America. “The government started the rules, and we can no longer go out. There was a strict curfew.” With a pandemic that has no end in sight, the three-year wait for these children will only continue.
This has been a crime against humanity perpetuated by the U.S. government, yet not one person—not impeached president Donald Trump or any of his high-level officials—has been held accountable for these crimes. These abuses have also gone completely ignored in presidential and vice presidential debates, even after a shocking report from The New York Times revealing that top Justice Department officials including former attorney general Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III explicitly wanted to take children, and then lied about it to us.
Should this week’s presidential debate actually happen, moderator Kristen Welker must ask the candidates about it. If she doesn’t, Democratic nominee Joe Biden must raise it on his own.
We need to also have a national conversation about how we repair this damage in a potential new administration. Reunification in the U.S. and a path to citizenship should be the bare minimum. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission-type endeavor should also be a bare minimum. The fact is that while Trump may very well lose reelection next month, that’s simply not enough. These children and parents need justice—and the officials who carried out these atrocities must be held accountable.
“545 children are going to sleep alone tonight because the Trump administration ripped them away from their parents, lied about it, then lost track of them as they deported them into danger,” Families Belong Together director Paola Luisi said in a statement received by Daily Kos. “It's par for the course for a sadistic immigration system that saw six children die in cages, forced women into unnecessary surgeries, continued deportation flights in the middle of a pandemic, and refused to release women and children despite horrific conditions in custody.
“It's simple,” she continued. “We will not rest until every single child is reunited with their parents because the American people agree that families belong together.”
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