The Trump administration will not reunite 46 of 103 toddlers with their undocumented immigrants, pointing to long-term and possibly permanent separations.
Most of the under-5s were seized and detained under the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, ordered in April. They have been taken hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles away.
On June 26, US District Judge Dana Sabraw gave federal officials until July 10 to reunite all toddlers, keep in euphemistically-named “tender care shelters”, with their parents or other adults. Sabraw gave the Government 30 days to comply for juveniles over 5.
On Tuesday, Administration officials only reunited 38 toddlers, and today they said that a total of 57 have now rejoined mothers and fathers.
In a joint statement on Thursday morning, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions insisted the Administration hass “worked tirelessly” for reunions while also assuring “the well-being of the children and returning them to a safe environment”.
They then repeated the threat of “zero tolerance”: “Our message has been clear all along: Do not risk your own life or the life of your child by attempting to enter the United States illegally. Apply lawfully and wait your turn.”
The Administration said 22 toddlers were deemed ineligible for reunification “due to safety concerns posed by the adults in question”. It asserted that 11 adults have serious criminal histories, including “charges or convictions” for child cruelty, kidnapping, murder, human smuggling or domestic violence. Seven of the adults “were determined not to be a parent” of the child with whom they entered the country, it maintained. One adult had a falsified birth certificate, one was accused of abusing the child who had been brought across the border, one was being treated for “a communicable disease”, and one had planned to house their child with an adult who had been charged with child sexual abuse.
But 12 of the toddlers are separated because parents have been deported. The statement declared that nine adults are in federal custody for other offenses, two are in state jails for other offenses, and the location of one adult has been unknown for more than a year.
Up to 3,000 separated children remain in detention.