The federal government has managed to reach nearly 300 illegal immigrant parents back in their home countries who were deported without their children, and has submitted a plan to try to figure out how to reconnect the families.
Officials told a federal court in California Thursday night that about 500 children still remain separated and in government custody, two weeks after the deadline the judge set for reunifications.
The parents who were deported without their children remain the largest sticking point, accounting for 386 children still in government-run dorms, covering 360 parents. Of those, the government has managed to make contact with 299 parents, but doesn’t know how to reach 26 parents at all.
The government said many of those parents had already agreed to leave their children in the U.S. when the adults themselves were deported — presumably, officials said, because the children could either gain legal status or disappear into the shadows in the U.S.
But the American Civil Liberties Union, which has led the case challenging the government, said it doesn’t trust those assurances.
The ACLU has demanded the ability to contact those ousted parents and offer them legal help in changing their minds to demand reunification.
“Plaintiffs need to attempt to reach all parents currently recorded as having relinquished their child,” the ACLU said in its latest court filing Thursday.
Federal officials submitted their own plan to the court for coordinating contacts and decision-making with the deported parents, agreeing to a large role for the ACLU.
Under that plan, the ACLU would be in charge of figuring out what each deported parent wants to do, then would communicate that to the government for final action.
Parents who want to leave their children in the U.S. would be asked to suggest a relative or other sponsor their children could be delivered to. Parents who now signal they want to be reunified would have their children delivered to them in their home countries.
The ACLU also said it fears there’s another group of children whose parents were deported and who were instead released to relatives in the U.S. The ACLU said those parents should also have a say in what happens now.
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