Democratic senators demanded Tuesday that the federal government bring into the U.S. hundreds of deported illegal-immigrant parents, letting them back into the country to reunite with their children and make new asylum claims.
The parents were part of the families snared in the chaos surrounding President Trump’s zero-tolerance border policy.
Nearly 400 of those parents who were deported with their children still here in the U.S. should be given the chance to come back, and then be released into the communities while they argue for permanent protections, the senators said.
“DHS should offer these parents an opportunity to return to the United States on a grant of humanitarian parole … to reunite with their child. Such reunited families in turn should be released into the community to pursue claims for asylum or other forms of protection for which they may be eligible,” wrote the senators, in a letter spearheaded by Sen. Kamala Harris, California Democrat.
Homeland Security dismissed the demand.
“We are under no legal obligation to admit aliens who have been removed back into the United States,” a department official said. “We will continue to work on reunifications and will comply with court orders.”
The government has managed to reunite or release to other sponsors about 2,000 children who were separated.
But in hundreds of other cases the parents were either released into the interior of the U.S. or, more often, deported, while their children remained in government custody.
Several court cases are arguing over how those children and parents should be treated.
In a hearing in federal district court in the District of Columbia, a judge prodded the government and immigrant-rights activists over whether a deported parent has a right to return to the U.S. to be reunited — and whether that then entitles them to stay here while their children’s asylum claims are heard.
A judge in California who has overseen the family reunifications is also deciding on similar questions.
The government says parents who were deported without their children had a chance to have their children come with them, but waived those rights in order to give their children an independent chance at legal status in the U.S.
Federal lawyers say the parents could also choose to be deported with their children — but they have resisted the suggestion that parents should be readmitted to the U.S., or that they should have their cases tied to that of their children.
“It’s a question of the parents’ free choice,” Scott Stewart, a Justice Department lawyer, told Judge Paul L. Friedman.
The judge, though, seemed skeptical.
“Don’t the children have a right to pursue asylum?” he wondered.
The Democratic senators said both children and parents involved in the separations should be given a new chance to make their cases.
The senators said they believed some parents were pressured into agreeing to be deported, either with or without their children.
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