July 6, 2018
1. The Trump Administration has been forcibly separating families since July 2017, regardless of their manner of entry. Upon separation, parents were moved to criminal custody or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention, and children were designated as unaccompanied alien children (UAC) and placed in shelters scattered across the country, including Florida. Children that were separated from their parents as early as July 2017 have yet to be reunited with their parents.
2. On June 26, 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the government to reunite all separated children with their parents by July 26, 2018. The judge also ordered that children under 5 be reunited by July 10, parents be allowed to speak with their children by July 6, and that no parents be deported without their children (absent a knowing waiver). On July 6, 2018, the Justice Department asked Judge Sabraw to extend the amount of time the government has to reunify families, a strong indication that the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and ICE will have trouble meeting the court’s order in just 30 days time.
3. There are no adequate systems in place to reunify families. At last count, nearly 3,000 children remain separated from parents who have been detained or already deported without their children. Initial estimates of separated children failed to take into account the hundreds of children torn apart from their families before the "zero tolerance" policy went into full effect in May 2018. Beyond the sheer volume of children desperately in need of reunification and the brisk timeline for doing so, the reunification process is further impeded by the limitations of inter-agency collaboration between ICE, the agency that detains parents in removal proceedings, and ORR, charged with sheltering children.
4. Parents are being coerced into waiving their asylum claims to be reunited with their children. In what is being termed “airport reunification,” parents are reportedly agreeing to expedited removal in exchange for reunification with their children. An attorney from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) told CNN that "many [parents] are being pressured to sign this [form] before they’ve even seen a judge, and despite not having a final order of removal."
5. The right to seek asylum at our border – whether at an official port of entry or not – is protected under U.S. and international laws. Nonetheless, countless immigrant families have been turned away – including at official ports of entry – without any opportunity to present their asylum case. Additionally, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is seeking to indefinitely detain asylum seekers who have passed their credible fear interview for the entirety of their court proceedings, and to eliminate asylum protections for immigrants who enter illegally.