While working toward reuniting migrant children with their parents, the Trump administration identified 12 parents who were deported to their home countries while their children remain in the United States.
Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the lawsuit resulting in separated children being returned to their parents, said the administration has made no substantial effort to find the parents who were deported without their kids.
“Defendants have not even tried to contact them or facilitate their reunification by today,” the ACLU said. “Their children are stranded in this country because of Defendants’ actions, and yet Defendants have apparently done nothing to facilitate their reunification.”
A senior official with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Matthew Albence, told reporters prior to Tuesday’s hearing that the federal government has no responsibility to find the parents or return their children to them:
“Many of these parents who have been removed decline to take their child, because they’ve completed the smuggling act,” he said. “Their goal, when they paid their smuggler and these criminal organizations and these cartels five or six thousand to smuggle themselves into the country, their goal was to get their child here. They’ve accomplished that goal. So if they have to return on their own, they’re willing to do so and leave the child here because that was the intended goal of their illegal entry in the first place.”
“Once the parent is removed, ICE has no jurisdiction to have anything to do with that parent,” he added.
However, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw disagreed with the Trump administration’s stance.
He explicitly included the deported parents in his reunification order, though he has not yet set a firm timeline. The ACLU has suggested that the government be forced to reunite them with their children one week after making contact with them. Instead, Judge Sabraw ordered the ACLU and Trump administration to return to his San Diego courtroom on Friday to give and update on what progress has been made.