Trump Admin Has No Idea Whose Kids Are Where. Hell, At Least The Nazis Kept Records
There is no plan at all to reunite parents with the more than 2,300 kids already taken away by the government -- and "existing policies place the onus on parents to find their children in Department of Health and Human Services custody and seek to reunite with them." We're sure parents deported to Guatemala or El Salvador will be able to find their children who've been flown to surprise mystery destinations somewhere, anywhere, in the US -- probably as easy as clicking on one of those "find anyone for $10!" websites. Don't you think?
Even before Jeff Sessions announced the "zero tolerance" policy that resulted in children being taken away, the administration had already separated hundreds of families since 2017. And it was widely known that ICE, which takes care of processing and deporting migrants, and the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is supposed to place children in foster care "or whatever," had absolutely no system in place to make sure children were returned to their parents -- and again, that was long before family separation officially became the norm. It's just part of why the ACLU launched a class action lawsuit against family separation in March, long before Sessions's announcement.
Now that family separation is -- at least officially -- being paused, nobody in government seems to have any plans to reunite kids with parents at all. It's not mentioned in Trump's executive order, and ICE and ORR have issued conflicting statements about what will happen next. A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, which runs ORR, said Wednesday that the agency remains focused on getting kids taken from their parents into foster care, as they would with any "unaccompanied alien children."
Since the government isn't doing anything, the job of finding children has fallen to nonprofit groups who work with migrants, and they're swamped with requests for help, often from parents who are facing deportation now that they've been charged and convicted on the misdemeanor of illegal entry. Groups like Kids In Need of Defense, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and the Texas Civil Rights Project have been raising funds and connecting families with lawyers, but because the family separation system is a clusterfuck, it can be extremely frustrating just to find a single child and connect her with her parents.
We will spare you the horror stories, but they've been extensively reported in the New Yorker, The Nation, The Independent, The New York Times, the Guardian, and elsewhere. They're all good reads, and horrific. John Sandweg, the acting director of ICE from 2013-2014 during the Obama administration, warned NBC News that very long -- or even permanent -- separations of parents and children could result from the combination of bureaucracy and an asylum system that was already slow, and is now being flooded with detained adults separated from their kids:
"You could easily end up in a situation where the gap between a parent's deportation and a child's deportation is years," Sandweg said.
As a result, parents may find themselves back in their home countries struggling to find their children. Many do not have access to legal counsel or understand the U.S. immigration or judicial systems.
Children who stay in the foster system for lengthy periods of time may become wards of the state and finally adopted.
"You could be creating thousands of immigrant orphans in the U.S. that one day could become eligible for citizenship when they are adopted," Sandweg explained.
As we've said before, all the ad hoc, improvised fuckery in the family separation seems aimed at sending the message to potential migrants that the USA will do any goddamned thing it wants to them, so they'd better stay away. Trump has finally found a way to weaponize his administration's incompetence.
The same protest and advocacy that forced Trump to at least pretend he was doing something to stop family separation has to be applied to getting kids reunited with their families. And more state and local officials need to follow the example of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (this time), who has ordered that all state agencies who have received children taken from their families provide details on the kids and what's known about their parents. Immediately:
Don't be fooled by Trump's head-fake on family separation: This won't be over until all the kids are back with their families and the government comes up with a better plan than jailing everyone together. They could, for instance, revive the very successful Family Case Management Program that allowed asylum applicants out of detention while also keeping them in close touch with a case manager. Contrary to Trump's lie that asylum seekers would just vanish if not kept in ICE detention (at a cost of hundreds of dollars a day), the program saw 99 percent of its participants show up for their asylum hearings. (Not surprisingly, it worked too well -- ICE killed the program last summer.)
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.