The Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the southern U.S. border has landed many migrants in a nightmare situation: children have been deported while their parents sit in detention awaiting immigration proceedings.
According to the Houston Chronicle, the federal government insists the process of reunification is “well-coordinated”, but immigration lawyers working to help parents and children find one another paint a different picture all together.
Lawyers said the reality on the ground suggests bedlam. Some were initially given a 1-800 number for parents to find children that routed to an immigration tip-line. A corrected number was issued, though parents complain they cannot always make calls from detention, that operators have “deliberately” hung up, and that the agency often requires a call-back number which parents in prison don’t have.
In frustration, RAICES last week set up its own hotline, 866-378-2667, to identify separated parents in detention and connect them with pro bono legal counsel, funded by some $25 million in donations that has poured into the nonprofit as anger over the administration’s policy grew.
The Chronicle highlights the plight of one woman whose stepchildren were returned to Mexico while she and their father remained in the U.S. – a situation that has befallen other parents as well.
The family is from a violent part of Mexico and the father, who has lived illegally in the McAllen area for years, returned to retrieve his children and bring them here. The father was caught coming back across the border in June and prosecuted for the crime. His two sons, aged 9 and 10, were taken from him.
Eventually the group located the children in the custody of the Mexican public welfare agency. It is unclear what will happen to them as the father and his wife are in the United States illegally and may likely not be able to return if they leave. It is unclear what other relatives remain in Mexico.