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DHS Deported 463 Parents, Leaving Behind Their Traumatized Children. They Can — and Must — Bring the Parents Back Using Well-Established Parole Authority

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It is now clear that the Trump administration deported 463 parents without the children they arrived with. With the administration under court order to reunite all families separated by the government, it is now imperative that these families be found and returned to the United States under well-established parole authority. This will enable separated families to be expeditiously reunited, to receive crisis counselling and to make appropriate determinations with legal counsel on the best interests of the traumatized children and their loved ones.   

On Monday, the Trump administration updated a federal court on efforts to reunite almost 3,000 children taken from their parents under President Trump’s family separation policy.  Without much explanation, the report noted this statistic: “Case notes indicate adult is not in the U.S., under review:  463.” Now we are learning from Politico that these 463 parents were likely deported by DHS. Furthermore, Politico reports: “Homeland Security officials may have neglected to give a choice to as many as three-quarters of all migrant parents removed from the United States about leaving their children behind, contradicting repeated public assurances from Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.”

According to Politico:

The Trump administration failed to document consent in most such cases, an administration official told Politico. That lapse increased the number of departed parents whom officials must now find and contact about whether they wish to be reunited with their children, and, if so, figure out the logistics of how to bring them together. The revelation threatens to delay reunifications and renews questions about the administration’s original intent one day ahead of a court-ordered deadline to return most migrant children to their parents.

That migrant parents gave consent to leave their children behind has been a key talking point for Trump administration officials defending the deportations.


“All of these adults who left without their kids left based on a decision to leave their children,” Nielsen said July 19 at a national security forum. “The parents always have the choice to take the children with them,” Nielsen repeated to Fox News on Tuesday. “These are parents who have made the decision not to bring the children with them.”

“If any parent has been deported … without their child,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said July 5, “that likely would be a scenario where the parent had actually asked that the child remain.”

DHS has Long-Standing Legal Authority — Parole — to Expeditiously Return Separated Parents

For over 60 years, the Congress has given immigration officials the authority to expeditiously bring a foreign national to the U.S. for specific reasons without going through the usual time- and resource-intensive visa process.  Current law provides DHS may “parole” foreign nationals into the U.S. for “urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.”  

In a report by the U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO), “family reunification for compelling humanitarian reasons” was one of the top four reasons for USCIS parole applications.  The USCIS website provides a guide on the many reasons parole might be issued, including:

  • Whether or not the circumstances are pressing;
  • The effect of the circumstances on the individual’s welfare and wellbeing; and
  • The degree of suffering that may result if parole is not authorized.

Furthermore, ICE has long administered parole authority for foreign nationals “who will participate in administration, judicial, or legislative proceedings, and/or investigations, whether at the federal, state, local, or tribal level of government.”    

The fact is DHS has all the authority it needs to expeditiously end the trauma it has caused by quickly paroling the deported parents back to the U.S.  Indeed, parole authority was already used by the Trump Administration in a very similar case involving two parents separated from their children who sued the federal government in Connecticut.  Recognizing the case involved “urgent humanitarian reason or significant public benefit,” the Trump Administration told the federal court, “Having considered all the factors presented in this case, ICE will be granting Plaintiffs’ parents’ request for parole.”     

Parents Should be Paroled to Reunite with Separated Children, Receive Family Crisis Counseling, and to Make Appropriate Determinations with Counsel on the Best Interests of their Traumatized Children and Family

DHS should parole parents back into the United States for the time necessary for the following:

  1. Expedite Family Reunification: Unlike the cases involving separated parents and children inside the U.S., the Trump Administration admits the deported parents cases are “under review” and they need more time to determine how to reunify those families.  Today’s court-imposed family reunification deadline will almost certainly be missed for these families who will continue to endure the trauma of the government’s likely unconstitutional family separation policy.  To expedite the reunification and end the trauma as quickly as possible, deported parents should be paroled into the U.S.  If deported parents are not quickly returned, the government’s violation of the constitutional principle of family integrity and the trauma of these forced separations will continue.
  2. Family Crisis Counseling:  The severe trauma caused by the family separation policy has been well-documented by multiple pediatricians and psychologists.  Families should be allowed to remain in the U.S. together (and outside of detention, to avoid further trauma) while they receive government-financed family crisis counseling.  Given that Trump’s family separation policy is likely unconstitutional and there are serious allegations of coercion or misrepresentation used by the government to deport hundreds of parents, the government should pay for counseling for the entire family to address the severe trauma the government caused through family separation and the parents’ deportation.
  3. Access to Counsel:  Families should be given the time necessary to access counsel to help them make their own decisions in the best interests of their family and without any interference by DHS officials.

DHS and Congress Should Review All Cases to Investigate Whether Coercion or Misrepresentation Was Used to Deport Parents

The shocking allegation made in Politico that as many as three-quarters of deported parents may not have consented to deportation without their children should be thoroughly reviewed and the facts should be provided to the Congress, the federal court reviewing this matter, and the public at large. This Administration has intentionally caused trauma to achieve a deterrent effect, failed to follow basic family law principles and DHS policy on family unity, and has repeatedly obfuscated facts in this case.  It can not be trusted to make appropriate determinations on the best interests of these children.

Ur Jaddou, Director of DHS Watch and former USCIS Chief Counsel, said: “It is infinitely harder to reunite families when parents are deported.  That is why the federal judge in this case ordered the government to stop deporting parents.  Every day that passes without reunification is another day of trauma caused by Trump’s family separation policy.  The government must use all of its tools to end this trauma as expeditiously as possible.  For the deported parents, that begins with parole.”

David Leopold, Chair, Immigration Law, Ulmer & Berne LLC and former President & General Counsel of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said: “We’ll soon find out if Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen can return toddlers to their parents as efficiently as they can kidnap them.  The 463 parents who were deported after the Trump administration forcibly ripped their children from them should be immediately returned to the U.S. under the well-established parole authority. Once reunited with their children, parents should be given the opportunity to make informed decisions about what’s best for their families free from coercion, threat or deception by the Trump administration.  We owe them that much.”