Newsweek has reported that the Trump administration’s Health and Human Services (HHS) Department have said that it could be “traumatic to remove migrant children from the home of their sponsors and reunite them with their families. Such actions, they say, “would present grave child welfare concerns.”
“It would destabilize the permanency of their existing home environment, and could be traumatic to the children,” said Jonathan White, who is in charge of the the department’s efforts to reunite the separated children with their parents.
HHS has also said that reunification of the families would take enormous effort and the administration should instead focus on reuniting the children who are still held in custody.
The American Civil Liberties Union was not convinced by the argument.
The ACLU said: “The Trump administration’s response is a shocking concession that it can’t easily find thousands of children it ripped from parents and doesn’t even think it’s worth the time to locate each of them,” said Lee Gelernt, the lead lawyer in the ACLU’s ongoing lawsuit against ICE, in a statement. “The administration also doesn’t dispute that separations are ongoing in significant numbers.” [...] “I think the policy of taking the children away in the first place was cruel,” said Gelernt, the ACLU lawyer, “but to not even have a system to return the parents to the children just increases the magnitude of the cruelty.”
Trump’s decision to separate families sparked international outrage last year. A mid-January report revealed that the administration may not even know how many children were separated.
“Thousands of children may have been separated during an influx that began in 2017, before the accounting required by the court, and HHS has faced challenges in identifying separated children,” the report from the agency said.
A hearing is scheduled for February 21 to determine if the government is required to reunite the children who were released before the June court order.
“The Trump administration’s response is a shocking concession that it can’t easily find thousands of children it ripped from parents, and doesn’t even think it’s worth the time to locate each of them,” Lee Gelernt, the lead ACLU attorney, said.
Senator Jeff Merkley tweeted “This is what evil looks like” in response to the ACLU’s tweet about the Trump administration’s argument that it would take too long to figure out where the immigrant children are.
Trump has stood behind his decisions, saying that family separation is a good deterrent for illegal immigrants. “If they feel there will be separation, they don’t come,” the president said. Thousands of immigrants have continued to flee toward the U.S. border, so the president’s statement was incorrect.
Most of the children who were separated from their parents have been released to sponsors who are often not their parents. About 10 percent of the children were released to a distant relative, family friend, or somebody else. 49 percent were reunited with their parents, and 41 percent were sent to close relatives.