Last week marked the deadline for migrant children who had been unlawfully separated from their parents to be reunited. Many families were reunified—although not without sustaining considerable emotional and physical trauma. Still, many children remain separated—for a variety of concerning reasons.
One of the most challenging problems the administration now faces involves a large group of migrant parents who were deported before they could be reunited with their children. A recent tally shows that more than 120 parents signed papers for “voluntary” deportation without their children—even though they didn’t understand what they were signing. In some cases, according to their lawyers, they were outright tricked into signing.
The form in question—which was recently released publicly—is fraught with problems. First, the form gives migrant parents just two options: to leave the country alone or to leave the country with their child. The form does not offer such migrants—many of whom are fleeing violence in Central America—the option to remain in the country with their children while they wait for a decision regarding asylum. Under U.S. asylum law, any migrant seeking asylum has the right to present their case in front of a judge. This form, therefore, is in violation of asylum law.
In some cases, ICE even presented this form to asylum seekers who had already passed their initial asylum screenings. This represents a further violation.
In addition, basic information on the form—such as name and country of origin—appears in both English and Spanish. However, the critical information on the form—which explains what the migrant is agreeing to by signing—appears in English only. There are instructions that an interpreter should read the form to the migrant in a language the migrant understands—which, in some cases, is not Spanish at all, but only a local Central American dialect. Immigration lawyers have reported cases of migrants being pressured into signing the form without having it properly explained.
The family separation policy has led to disaster for thousands of vulnerable families and outcry around the world. The Trump administration is facing a flurry of lawsuits over its actions and must now work to clean up its mess.