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Video screenshot (Not the vans or kids in question)

Remember back in ancient history, last summer, when a federal court judge told the Trump administration it had to reunify all the families it had broken apart months earlier with its family separation policy? You know, the policy it never had, or at least never actually intended to fix? New reporting from NBC News yesterday shows just what a complete clusterfuck the government made of the first attempts to reunify children and parents at an ICE detention center in Texas. The nonprofit shelter where the kids were warehoused by Health and Human Services did its part, loading the kids into vans for a 30-minute drive from the shelter in Harlingen to the Port Isabel Detention Center in Los Fresnos, but when the kids arrived on a Sunday afternoon, not a single adult had been processed by ICE for release. NBC reporters Jacob Soboroff and Julia Ainsley summarize the chaos:

But when the children, all between 5 and 12 years old, arrived at Immigration and Customs Enforcement's adults-only Port Isabel Detention Center, rather than seeing their parents, they saw a parking lot full of vans just like theirs, with children from other facilities who, just like them, were waiting to be processed and reunified with their parents.

It was 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 15, 2018.

Not until 39 hours later — after two nights in a van — did the last child step out of a van to be reunited. Most spent at least 23 hours in the vehicles.

That there is some bullshit, is what that is. NBC News got its hands on emails sent within the nonprofit, BCFS Health and Human Services, in which BCFS regional director Andrew Carter contacted CEO Kevin Dinnin to let him know that, as of 10:30 PM, eight hours after the vans arrived, not a single one of the 37 kids had been reunited with a parent:


Good evening, I wanted to make you aware of some of the challenges we are facing as we implement the reunification process for separated children. The urgency to initiate the transport of the children is not reflected when we arrive at the detention facilities. Today, we received instructions to initiate reunification for 37 tender age children from Harlingen at the detention facility in Los Fresnos. After receiving authorization to transport the kids they were driven to the facility that is approximately 30 minutes away and arrived at 14:30. The children were initially taken into the facility, but were then returned to the van as the facility was still working on paperwork. The children were brought back in later in the evening, but returned to the vans because It was too cold in the facility and they were still not ready to be processed in.

It is 22:30 and they are still in the vans and not one of our children has been checked in. In addition, there are other vans with kids from other facilities that are waiting as well. There has to be a better process. I hope as we move forward there can be adjustments so that we don't put tender age kids in this position. If coordinated properly, we can be scheduled for a particular Intake time so there are not multiple programs arriving at the same time and overwhelming the intake process at the facility. Any attention you can provide or elevate regarding this issue is appreciated.

Remember when the approved bureaucratic term "tender age children" still had the power to shock and horrify? At least those of us who didn't think terrified children merited a sarcastic "WAH-WAAAHH" on national TV?

HHS had notified ICE twice that the children would be arriving Sunday afternoon, but ICE apparently did nothing at all to get ready for the transfers.

ICE officers kept to their regular schedule, clocking out for the day while the parking lot filled with children eager to see their parents again. There was no one present to greet the arriving children and they were not equipped to process them in a parking lot, the BCFS official told NBC News, describing the scene as "hurried disarray."

Just turning the vans around around and taking the kids back to the shelter in Harlingen was ruled out, too, because "ICE told BCFS staff that if the children returned to Harlingen, they would be further delayed in seeing their parents." The nonprofit brought more vans in, as well as food and blankets, so the kids could at least stretch out and have room to sleep. The high temperatures that weekend were 97 degrees, so we'll assume the vans were kept running for the AC -- happily, nobody died from carbon monoxide, so let's chalk this up as a success. NBC News details the insanely slow pace of reunifications that weekend.

At 1:30 a.m. Sunday, 11 hours after arrival, the first child was reunified. By 6:30 a.m. Monday, just minutes before the sun rose, 17 children had been reunified. By 1:30 p.m. Monday, nearly 24 hours after they first pulled into the parking lot, 32 children were reunified. Not until 5:50 a.m. on Tuesday was the final child reunified.

BCFS told NBC News those initial delays taught them to expect ICE would continue fucking up, so for later scheduled reunification, the organization took along "coach buses equipped with a bathroom, TV and air conditioning in the parking lot while reunifying children at Port Isabel," to be ready for long waits. The story doesn't say whether any kids had to camp in the buses for a full day, though.

And thank goodness, ICE offered NBC an ass-covering spokesperson, who said the whole thing was "unusual," but emphasized the agency had learned its lesson real good, you bet:

Following processing delays on July 15-16, which resulted in some children staying overnight in [Port Isabel], DHS took immediate action to resolve the situation and the delays were resolved. These children have all been reunited with their parents and since then, no child has spent more than a few hours waiting to be reunited with their parents

And apart from the Border Patrol letting six kids die and HHS letting kids languish in temporary baby jails far longer than the law allows, everything is just fine now.

That first night, July 15, 2018, Dinnin, the BCFS CEO, immediately forwarded the email about the delays to HHS Commander Jonathan White, who was in charge of making sure the reunifications happened. White simply emailed back the next morning that he was on his way to a status hearing in the case, and advised Dinnin, "You did the right thing." But as Soboroff and Ainsley point out, White never mentioned the delay to Judge Dana Sabraw, who had ordered the reunifications.

That July 16 hearing, we should note, occurred a week after the government blew through its first deadline in the case, reuniting only half of the under-five children it was required to. Judge Sabraw was, not surprisingly, plenty pissed at the administration's foot-dragging, and singled HHS out for other delays, as Talking Points Memo reporter Alice Ollstein live-tweeted at the time:

Now Sabraw is TEARING INTO the Trump admin for arguing that the court is putting the immigrant kids in danger by ordering swift reunification with their parents. He calls this argument "completely unhelpful" bc gov is the one that "improperly separated parent and child."

Sabraw accuses Trump admin of "inviting a process of delay at the expense of children and parents." He then scolds them, saying: "HHS is a defendant in this case. HHS' mission is the interest of the child. It is failing in this context."

Gee, wonder why White failed to mention all the kids sitting in a Texas parking lot, at the very moment the hearing was going on? He was a really busy guy at the time, so it probably slipped his mind.

[NBC News]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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