Administration making progress in reuniting migrant families ahead of court deadlines
By Jennifer G. Hickey | July 20, 2018
On July 19, the Trump administration said in a court filing that 364 of more than 2,500 children of illegal immigrants were reunited with their families. The administration is facing a court-imposed deadline of July 26 to reunite the rest.
Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the completion of reunification of all children under the age of 5 with approved family members.
Working in conjunction with the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Justice (DOJ), HHS released on July 18 a summary of the administration’s plan for reunifying the remaining eligible migrants with vetted family members.
While the focus of open border agitators is on the deadlines for reunification, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told the Aspen Forum on July 19 that the first priority is the safety of the children.
Asked if the July 26 deadline will be met, Nielsen said the administration would do its best, but “we will not cut corners. Again, this is about the protection of the child.” She said there has been a 315 percent increase in fraudulent families presenting at the border.
To prevent fraud and ensure children are not placed into the custody of smugglers or child abusers, HHS reviews all background checks and case files to identify red flags of possible non-parentage or trafficking. HHS works with DHS to conduct interviews of adults and for parents no longer physically in ICE custody, HHS will coordinate with the parents directly.
The administration said last week that it had identified 2,551 immigrant children who had been separated from their families at the border. Another 272 of the parents still have to be interviewed. More than 200 had been released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), while 264 remain in ICE custody.
This week, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee were briefed by officials from the Department of Health and Human Services concerning the progress the administration is making toward reunification and Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has scheduled a July 31 open hearing on the matter.