Nearly half of kids in youngest age group deemed ‘ineligible’ due to safety concerns
Nearly half of the immigrant children under five years old who were separated from their parents at the U.S. border were unable to be reunited, as the U.S. government struggled to meets its first reunification deadline.
The Trump administration said on Thursday, July 12 that all “eligible” children under age five were reunited with their parents, but 46 kids were not.
This, they said, was due to safety concerns.
The numbers came a couple days after its missed reunification deadline of Tuesday, July 10 which was set by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego.
At the Tuesday deadline, the government reported that only four of the expected 102 migrant children under five were reunited with their parents, saying that more would be reunited at the end of the day.
“These are firm deadlines. They’re not aspirational goals,” said Sabraw who gave the government a 14-day deadline for the first wave of reunifications, and a 30-day deadline for older children.
The government is further expected to reunite with their parents, over 2,000 children ages five to 17 by another quickly approaching deadline of July 26.
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said safety concerns were the reason for the delay and said it was better the process not be rushed.
“Our process may not be quick as some would like, but there is no question it is protecting children,” said Chris Meekins, a senior official at DHHS.
The department said it had found parents unsuitable for reunification because of issues found during criminal background checks.
“If we had just reunited kids with the adults, we would be putting them in the care of a rapist, a kidnapper, a child abuser, and someone who was charged with murder in their home nation,” said Meekins.
Of the parents not reunited, government officials said 12 had been deported and are in the process of being contacted, eight were in the custody of U.S. Marshals Service for different offenses, and one’s location was not known.
The department said that eight adults had serious criminal histories including murder, robbery, narcotics, or child cruelty; five were determined not to be parents; and one was accused of child abuse.
But others are reported to have had less serious charges like driving under the influence, which has been argued as not necessarily being grounds for separation.
Reports have also described instances in which parents were not aware that they were being separated from their children.
The Los Angeles Times reported of a father who was deported back to his home country without his daughter. Immigration Customs Enforcement said he had agreed to be sent home without her, but the father said he doesn’t recall ever making an agreement.
Despite the delay, Sabraw said on Tuesday that everyone was “rowing in the same direction,” but added that “families were improperly separated” as a result of President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy that allowed the separation of families.
After receiving wide criticism including from members of his own party, Trump signed an executive order last month on June 20 to stop the separations.
On Tuesday, asked by reporters about his reaction to the delay, Trump replied, “Well, I have a solution.”
“Tell people not to come to our country illegally. That’s the solution,” said Trump. “Don’t come to our country illegally. Come like other people do. Come legally.”
The orders and deadlines by Judge Sabraw to reunite children with their parents came as a response to a lawsuit against the Trump administration by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Sabraw was expected to voice an evaluation of the government’s efforts Friday, July 13. (Rae Ann Varona / AJPress)