TrumpWatch, Day 537: Trump Administration Misses Deadline to Reunite Immigrant Toddlers with Parents

Milka Pablo and her 3-year-old daughter Darly, reunited in Phoenix, Arizona, after a 4-month separation (Victor J. Blue/New York Times)

The Trump Administration has missed a court-ordered deadline to reunite detained toddlers with their undocumented immigrant parents.

Government agencies reunited only 38 of 102 children, under 5 years old, who were being held in “tender care shelters” after being seized under the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” order in April.

On June 26, Judge Dana Sabraw of the Federal District Court in San Diego had ordered that the toddlers be reunited with parents within 14 days, and juveniles over 5 within 30 days.

However, the failure to keep suitable records as children were taken meant that authorities still do not the partents of some detainees. Other parents have already been deported.

There was chaos throughout Tuesday, with officials trying to maintain secrecy over the movement of children, sometimes thousands of miles. Parents were warned that pickup and drop-off times could change throughout the day, as the Department of Health and Human Services was still conducting background checks on parents on Tuesday morning.

More than 2,000 children — HHS has stopped releasing numbers — are still in detention, despite Donald Trump’s declaration on June 20 that he would reunite families.

Trump pointedly dropped that pledge on Tuesday, as he set off for the NATO summit in Belgium.

Well, I have a solution. Tell people not to come to our country illegally. That’s the solution. Don’t come to our country illegally. Come like other people do. Come legally.

A reporter sought clarification, “You’re punishing the children?”

Trump replied, “I’m saying this very simply: We have laws. We have borders. Don’t come to our country illegally. It’s not a good thing

Agencies also avoided comment on the missed deadline while maintaining the defense of “zero tolerance”. Katie Waldman, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, said that allowing parents and children out of detention as they await court and asylum hearings would serve “as a pull factor for increased future illegal immigration”.

But officials said they would return to the Obama Administration’s approach for hundreds of families, with parents wearing ankle bracelet electronic monitors.

Federal judge Dolly Gee, of the Federal District Court in Los Angeles, ruled on Monday that the Administration cannot hold children and parents in long-term detention.

See TrumpWatch, Day 536: Judge — No Long-Term Detentions of Immigrant Families

Meanwhile, those reunions which did occur Tuesday were a mix of emotions.

“He didn’t recognize me,” said Mirce Alba Lopez of her 3-year-old son, Ederson, as they were reunited in Phoenix, Arizona.

Her eyes welling up with tears, she said, “My joy turned temporarily to sadness.”

Three-year-old Darly screamed and tried to wiggle free from the embrace of her mother, Milka Pablo.

She cried for her social worker, “I want Miss. I want Miss>”

Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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