tags: , , AVEF, Press Releases

As Trump Administration Points Fingers and Twiddles Thumbs, 3-year Olds Separated from Families Forced to Defend Themselves in Court

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Court Has Ordered the Government to Reunite Infants and Toddlers Within Days

While over 2,000 children remain separated from their parents, one of the men in charge, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, pointed fingers and attempted to shift the blame to Congress. Is this administration serious about resolving the crisis of their creation and reuniting families? Are they even pretending to be working to meet court-ordered deadlines to reunite families? What’s the plan? Who’s in charge?

As New York Times’ Robert Pear reported:

Trump administration officials said on Wednesday that it would be difficult to comply with the timetable in a federal court order requiring the reunification of migrant children and parents who were separated at the border.

Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services said they were trying to put children and parents in touch with one another, but were not planning to release children while their parents were being detained to face prosecution on charges of trying to enter the United States illegally.

Moreover, the officials said, they must confirm that adults claiming children are actually their parents, and that the adults pose no danger to the children.

“We’re not allowed to have a child be with the parent who is in custody of the Department of Homeland Security for more than 20 days,” Mr. Azar said. “And so, until we can get Congress to change that law to — the forcible separation of the family units — we’ll hold them or place them with another family relative in the United States.”

…In his order on Tuesday, Judge Sabraw said that actions by federal agencies had “resulted in the casual, if not deliberate, separation of families that lawfully present at the port of entry, not just those who cross into the country illegally.”

Sure doesn’t sound like a government mobilizing to comply with a court order. Rather, sounds like a federal bureaucrat dithering, obfuscating and blaming Congress – for an unprecedented policy that started with this administration in May.

Meanwhile, we have new and horrifying reminders about what is happening to separated children and families.

Texas Tribune’s Christina Jewett and Shefali Luthra: “Immigrant toddlers ordered to appear in court alone”:

As the White House faces court orders to reunite families separated at the border, immigrant children as young as 3 are being ordered into court for their own deportation proceedings, according to attorneys in Texas, California and Washington, D.C.

…“We were representing a 3-year-old in court recently who had been separated from the parents. And the child — in the middle of the hearing — started climbing up on the table,” said Lindsay Toczylowski, executive director of Immigrant Defenders Law Center in Los Angeles. “It really highlighted the absurdity of what we’re doing with these kids.”

…The children being detained under the new “zero tolerance” policy, though, are facing immigration proceedings without mom or dad by their side.

“The parent might be the only one who knows why they fled from the home country, and the child is in a disadvantageous position to defend themselves,” Toczylowski said.

Associated Press’ Morgan Lee and Julie Watson report on the terrifying reality of parents deported without their children, “Frustration, heartbreak for migrant parents looking for kids”:

A woman in Guatemala who was deported without her 8-year-old son has had to find a U.S. lawyer from her cinderblock home on the outskirts of Guatemala City to help her get Anthony back.

Elsa Johana Ortiz applauded the federal judge’s ruling but added, “As long as he’s not with me, I will not be at peace.”

…Digna Perez of El Salvador said she was separated from her 9-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter at the border on May 29. She spoke with them Monday by telephone and was alarmed to hear lethargic, distracted responses from her normally talkative son.

“It was like I was forcing the words out of him,” she said. “He wasn’t like that before.”

.Another asylum-seeker at Annunciation House, Wilson Romero, hoped to be reunited with his 5-year-old daughter Nataly in California — at the home of his mother, a recent immigrant herself.

The 26-year-old father was separated from her by U.S. authorities in El Paso in May…

“I pray to God it is soon,” said Romero, who has a tattoo of his daughter’s name on his right arm.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “We are in the midst of a moral crisis of historic proportions, and all we get is bureaucratic doublespeak, indifference and excuse-making. The court has ordered families to be reunited – within 14 days for those under 5 years old and within 30 days for all others. The Trump administration mobilized to separate families. Now is the time for the Trump administration to mobilize to reunite families.”