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Family reunification deadline passed: where we stand now

We’ve posted previously about the current administration’s new zero-tolerance policy on immigration, which has resulted in the forcible separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. The policy resulted in nation-wide—as well as international—outrage. Last month, a federal judge issued a court-ordered deadline to reunite all parents with their children by July 26.

That deadline came and went yesterday, but hundreds of families remain separated. There were mix-ups in some reunification efforts—with some children being sent to the wrong facilities. Some 900 parents were deported without their children—and the U.S. government has not kept track of their whereabouts. Still other parents were deemed “ineligible” to be reunited with their children.

Still, by the end of the day on July 26, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported that it had reunited 1,442 children with their parents. However, the children’s kidnappings—as well as the weeks or months of separation from their parents—have been emotionally and psychologically traumatizing. In addition, many children were returned to their parents in poor physical health and with evidence of physical abuse.

Elizabeth Holtzman, co-author of the Refugee Act of 1980, resigned from the Homeland Security Advisory Council last week in opposition to the policy. In an interview, she called the administration’s approach to vulnerable populations cruel and horrific. She reflected that the U.S. used to be a country that welcomed refugees—and had a framework for doing that. She lamented that the current leadership has declared war on immigrants.

Nonetheless, human rights advocacy groups are hopeful that the cataclysmic failure of the zero-tolerance policy—and its fierce, bipartisan condemnation—will force the tides to turn on the immigration issue.

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