More Than 500 Children Remain Separated from Their Parents

By Amrit Cheng

It’s been nearly one month since the federal court’s deadline for the Trump administration to reunite separated families, but hundreds of children are still waiting. In fact, as of 12:00 pm on August 16, 565 immigrant children remained in government custody.

For 366 of those children, including six who are under the age of five, reunion is made all the more complicated by the fact that the government already deported their parents — without a plan for how they would be ever be located.

After forcefully rejecting the government’s assertion that the ACLU is solely responsible for finding deported parents — rather than say, the administration who deported them — the court has ordered both us and the administration to create a plan to locate and reunite deported parents with their children.

Here’s what you need to know about it.

Who is looking for the parents?

At the court’s order, the government appointed agency leads for the Department of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, the State Department, and Justice Department.

In order to aid in the effort to locate the hundreds of parents whom the government deported without their children, we’ve formed a steering committee. It’s led by the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, who will work with the government to locate and reunify parents who have been removed from the United States or released from ICE custody into the United States without their children. Our partners, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC),and Justice in Motion will serve as members of the Steering Committee, and will, among other tasks, facilitate communication regarding the wishes of parents and children who are still separated, and provide in-country support for locating deported parents.

Has the government provided the information that the ACLU needs?

Roughly two weeks ago, the government finally turned over a list of phone numbers for the majority of deported parents. With our steering committee, we’re focused on making contact with every deported parent advising them of their rights to be reunified.

Unfortunately, thus far, many of the phone numbers have been inoperable. The fact of the matter is that many parents may be in hiding, considering that they have all been deported to countries which they fled in the first place.

It certainly doesn’t help that the government may have had this information for more than a month before handing it over to us. We’ve heard reports from immigration attorneys on the ground that the phone number and contact information has actually been available in the children’s case files for quite some time, and certainly ahead of the July 26 deadline for all children to be reunited.

Every additional day that children wait to be with their parents is damaging — it’s simple unacceptable that the government had information that could help reunite them faster but sat on it.

Where will the families be reunited?

The government has argued that families can only be reunited in their countries of origin. This means that children who have a current asylum claim may have to forfeit theirs in order be reunited with their parents. If their parents don’t want them to lose the opportunity to seek protection in the U.S., children will have to navigate the asylum system without their parents, while bearing the weight of continued separation.

Parents who may have been misled or coerced into signing away their asylum rights will be left without redress. Already in this lawsuit, we’ve filed declarations of parents who were pressured by ICE officers to give up asylum claims, or to sign forms that they were unable to read.

What happens to the families  in the U.S. who have been reunited?

In a related family separation case, M.M.M. v. Sessions, Judge Sabraw has blocked deportations of families in the U.S., while the government and legal advocates work on a joint plan.

Before this ruling, which impacts more than 1,000 families, parents were being put in the position of being forced to choose between being deported together, meaning that they would waiving their child’s right to seek asylum, or being deported without their children.

Amrit Cheng is a Communications Strategist for the ACLU

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  1. Jerry Waszczuk


    It’s led by the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, who will work with the government to locate and reunify parents who have been removed from the United States or released from ICE custody into the United States without their children. Our partners, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC),and Justice in Motion will serve as members of the Steering Committee, and will, among other tasks, facilitate communication regarding the wishes of parents and children who are still separated, and provide in-country support for locating deported parents.

  2. Jeff M

    Why isn’t the media reporting that these parents chose to be deported while leaving their children behind in the hope that it would help the parents cut in line for immigration?

    1. Don Shor

      Why isn’t the media reporting

      They are. I found it on Slate and NBC quite readily, for example.  And it is also the last paragraph of the article you just commented on.

      1. Jeff M

        Well isn’t that special?  It is like the fine print on can of bug spray.

        Let’s try:


        That would be the more accurate headline.

        More importantly, it would replace all the intellectually dishonest headlines that the ACLU leverages for meaningless purpose on this issue.

        1. Don Shor

          Here is Slate’s version: ICE Deportation Form: Trump Is Making Parents Choose Between Losing Their Children and Deportation

          ps- it’s important to read the fine print on the bug spray.

        2. Don Shor

          When I took journalism in junior high school, the teacher discussed media bias. His main point was that bias is not usually reflected in the story itself. It’s reflected in the stories that the particular newspaper chooses to cover, and sometimes in the headlines. We compared headlines about the same story from different newspapers, which is always an interesting exercise. He also had us do exercises in writing headlines to show how difficult it can be to get the gist of a story in a certain number of letters without creating that bias. It’s actually pretty difficult. Of course, he also noted the difference between reporting and commentary.

        3. Jeff M

          I know it is difficult.  It is difficult because any honest and ethical journalist writing a headline would need to be in touch with their strongly held political beliefs and set them aside to report the actual news without coloring it toward their view.

          The best exercise is to write content from the other view.  It is hard work… something that people in the media seem less and less interested in doing.

          “Trump Is Making Parents Choose Between Losing Their Children and Deportation”

          Is not an honest headline… not at all.  The parents have 100% decision control and authority to demand that the US authorities get their children to return with them to their home country when deported.

          What type of parent leaves their children in a foreign country to be deported back home?  None that I respect.  I don’t care what the circumstances.  And then the dishonest media plays videos of crying children being united with the clear intention of branding the Trump administration, ICE and other government authorities as being brutal when it was the parents that decided the situation.

          It is intellectually dishonest.  It is propaganda.  It is sensationalized emotive tabloid reporting.  It is not worthy of any defense or excuse unless those things are desired in one’s media feed.

          It is important to read the fine print on the bug spray… but unfortunately the media is choosing to not label the can “BUG SPRAY”, but as “POOR AND MINORITY POISON DEVELOPED AND SOLD BY DONALD J. TRUMP”.

    1. Jim Hoch

      As a previous poster stated:

      “Notice how some posters never address matters of decency and humanity?  The methods and total absence of common etiquette employed by these storm troopers are antithetical to American justice.”

  3. Tia Will


    What type of parent leaves their children in a foreign country to be deported back home?  None that I respect.  I don’t care what the circumstances.”

    Perhaps the parent who has had a family member killed and the child left behind was also threatened with death? You wouldn’t respect a parent who choses separation over death for their child? I would.

      1. Tia Will


        I don’t know what the percentage is. I do know from personal experience that it is not zero. Each and every one of these families that arrives seeking asylum with these claims deserves ( and under our law) has the right to an individual assessment of their claims. That is our law and should be respected and adhered to, at least according to your usual law and order stance.

      1. Tia Will


        There is no speculation at all in anything I have written. I worked at a border hospital and clinic in Arizona for two years as a GMO. It was not unusual to have people arrive at our border hospital in desperate shape from dehydration, hypo or hypothermia, insect or snake bites or infections. The stories were sometimes of desire for a better economic future, but sometimes of family members raped, inducted into gangs or killed. There were stories of families essentially bled dry of money and then  run off their land. These were desperate people, not just economic refugees although they were certainly that having had their property stolen.

  4. Tia Will

    branding the Trump administration, ICE and other government authorities as being brutal “

    This is not a matter of “branding”. Do you suppose those children were not crying? In the words of Trump/Kelley/Sessions/Nielsen the zero tolerance policy was chosen specifically because it was pain inducing. The goal being deterrence to keep others from seeking asylum. That was their specific intent and they did it with no plans for reunification.

    One of the most brutal adverse events in a young child’s life is separation from a parent. This is well known behavioral and developmental fact, not speculation. Touch deprivation, restriction from natural light, cold temperatures are all known to have devastating impacts on children and have been hallmarks of the detention of children.

    Trump supporters were adamant that they did not want any PC conversation, they wanted things called as they are. Well, this was a brutal policy by intent. Not by media distortion, by intent, as was admitted by all of them.

    1. Jerry Waszczuk


      If you read the Human Rights Watch report , USA is not only country which is enforcing immigration law this way.  I think that the zero tolerance policy in this matter has long history and  we have liberty to read about because of  Donald Trump was elected President.

      Australia has operated a mandatory detention framework for all asylum seekers since 1992. Australia held 112 children in immigration detention in mainland detention centers as of October 31, 2015. A further 95 children were held in Australia’s regional processing center in Nauru. Reviews by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), the Australian Human Rights Commission, and other authorities have found serious shortcomings in the Nauru detention center, including severe shortages of water, footwear, and clothing, and unhygienic and crowded conditions that have resulted in outbreaks of lice, gastroenteritis, and bacterial skin infections. In 2015, disturbing reports emerged that children and adults had been sexually assaulted at the hands of staff and other detainees during the previous two years.
      In the US in mid-2014, the Obama administration dramatically expanded family immigration detention capacity, from fewer than 100 beds to more than 3,000, for the stated purpose of deterring Central American migrants from crossing into the US from Mexico. The Obama administration has since backed away from that rationale of deterrence in custody determinations for individual cases. Nevertheless, it continues to argue in federal court that it requires the family detention system to deter further mass migration.
      Thailand’s immigration laws permit the indefinite detention of all refugees, including Rohingya and members of other ethnic groups from Burma, ethnic Uighurs from China, Pakistanis, and Somalis. Migrant children are held in squalid cells without adequate food or opportunity to exercise or receive an education. Children have told Human Rights Watch that immigration detention centers can be so crowded they must sleep upright. One mother said there were three toilets for 100 detained migrants, which her teenage daughter would avoid using because they had no doors.
      Elsewhere in the world, Human Rights Watch and other groups have documented large-scale detention of migrant children in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Mexico.


      1. Eric Gelber

        “USA is not only country which is enforcing immigration law this way. … we have the liberty to read about because of Donald Trump was elected President.”

        Jerry – So, as long as other countries have equally cruel immigration policies, we should tolerate it here? There are counties that tolerate or officially sponsor genocide. Would you be OK with that?

        Also, we have a free press despite the fact that Trump is President, not because he is. According to Trump, the press is “the enemy of the people.”

        1. Jerry Waszczuk


          I just stated facts that the  USA is one country of many and provided the quote from article  which shows that Obama administration build deportation machine with out any expectation that Donald Trump would win election .  Do you believe that Obama  conspired with Trump and build the deportation machine for him ?    Trump  is more vocal about than Obama and Napolitano were.  Napolitano deported so many families including large number of children. She does not have family or kids than was easy for her and she did not talk much about .  It is nothing to do with free press or my believes . Using immigration and immigrants especially  children for political games by both sides is disgusting and beyond the human decency . I am hoping that I clarified my point of view for you .I  am  an immigrant and human rights activist from Poland and I have record defending other people in this country . Very good record which I am proud of regardless that my life was destroyed five  years before my retirement  by the  corrupted political  swamp from Democratic Party in California . When press represents in publications represents only one  party and being control by the member of this party than press is enemy of the people . This is  what Trump is talking about . Beside that ,  Trump does not   fit into any landscape of  two parties . He is President Donald Trump . He is not getting any support from Republicans . Obama left for him mine field and Republican dumped him to piranhas from Democratic Party and we see  the results already .  He  probably will write and publish  “Neo- My Struggle ” in near future .

      2. Tia Will


        If your neighbor kicks his dog, does that mean that you should kick your’s too? I don’t care how long a tradition zero tolerance has in other countries. It is a form of deliberate government sanctioned torture, especially for the under fives, and I will never accept this as a moral action.

        If Trump felt this was bad policy on the part of Obama, he should have deconstructed the detention centers and deportation mechanisms and worked with the members of Congress to devise a comprehensive and moral immigration policy. Instead he doubled down on what Bush had devised and Obama had ramped up. He deliberately chose to separate all families not just those that were questionable including asylum seekers. It was deliberately punitive per his own statements.

        1. Jerry Waszczuk


          Write to Janet  Napolitano and ask her why she deported so many children and families  and why Obama build the   deportation machine for Donald Trump . She was governor of Arizona and Chief of Homeland Security .  Obama ‘s election platform was not the  deportation of millions  but his administration deported millions without a publicity of ‘free press’. The   Trump’s election platform  was  the deportation of millions and the  wall on the  southern border  and he was elected .

          If instead of Trump  . Hillary Clinton would be elected  you u would not known what is going on Southern Border and you would  not read in ” free press’ about the  massive deportation and thousand of children  in detention centers .  I think that  the exodus of thousands from the south with children as a shield to cross the Mexico -USA border  is  much more brooder problem which was instigated by evil forces which caused victimization/separation  of children  from their parents .  

          Immigration to USA  and related to ” The  American Dream” is a   never  ending story. From  Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the fate of passengers on the St. Louis, a ship that fled Nazi Germany in 1939 with more than 900 Jews seeking refuge in Cuba and, then, Miami to  Barak Obama’s  massive deportation of illegals and to Donald Trump and  children in the detention centers separated from their  parents



          Jaroslaw Waszczuk
          708 El Capitan Dr.
          Lodi,CA 95242
          Phone: 209.369.5982
          Fax:   209.367.1338
          August 23, 1998 
          Via Fax\MaiI
          Mr. Thomas Grogan,Assistant Chief
          Division of Labor Standard Enforcement
          45 Fremont Street, Suite 3250
          P. 0. Box 420603
          San Francisco, CA 94105
          Re: Your letter dated August 18,1998. Public Record Act Request.
          Dear Mr. Grogan:
          Thank you for your prompt response in this matter. I appreciate your full cooperation,
          However ,I would like to ask you a few questions about your and Mr. Millan’s career with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. I hope that as a public employee you will not have any problems providing me with information. If you are unable to do so, please let me know who could provide such  information.
          1. How long have you been working with the DLSE?
          2. What positions did you hold with the DLSE and for how long prior to being promoted to Assistant Chief? Please specify title, years of service and location of DLSE office.
          3. What is your formal education?
          4. For how long has Mr. Jose Milan been your direct supervisor?
          5. What position has Mr. Milan held with the DLSE since 1987 and for how long? Please specify title, years of service and location of DLSE office.
          6. As a Assistant Chief, do you have full confidence in Mr. Jose Millan’s ability to run the Division with his uncertain documented activities?
          7. Do you know what happened to 72 Thai nationals who were working in slave like condition in El Monte(Senator Hilda Solis District; SB 680) in 1995 and they were freed by Jose Millan. Are those peoples are in the INS  prison or they were deported to Thailand after liberation? Do you have any documents about? I think, this is very interesting story?
          I would appreciate your prompt response in this matter.
          Sincerely ,
          Jaroslaw Waszczuk 
          cc: Senator Patrick Johnston, Senator Betty Karnette




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