The Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy for immigrants has resulted in the forcible separation of several thousand children from their parents, and 700 children still remain separated despite the fact that two court-ordered reunification deadlines have passed. A judge ordered the government to reunify the children with their parents by July 26, but the government failed to reunify hundreds. The government claims that it has reunified all of the children whose families were eligible for reunification and that the remaining parents were ineligible.
The Zero-Tolerance Policy
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration’s zero-tolerance policy in April. Under the policy, prosecutors were told to file criminal charges against all people who entered the country illegally. In the past, a majority of people went through a civil deportation process instead of criminal prosecution. With the mandated criminal prosecution of all undocumented immigrants, many families were forcibly separated from their children. The children were taken away from the parents because the parents were taken into custody. This resulted in several thousand children getting separated from their parents. Amid a widespread backlash, Trump announced an end to the family separations on June 20. A court then issued a nationwide injunction against family separations and ordered all of the children who had been separated to be reunified with their families by July 26. The separated children were placed in facilities across the U.S., including in Illinois.
Despite the deadline, the government did not reunify 700 children with their parents. The government argued that the children who were not reunified had parents who were not eligible for reunification. The government admitted that 431 of the children had parents who had been deported back to their home countries without their children. The court instructed the administration that its order covered families in which the parents had been deported and that the government needed to locate the parents so that they could be reunified with their children. The government also argued that some parents were deemed ineligible because of past criminal convictions or because they were deemed to be unsafe. Immigration attorneys have argued that separating the children from their parents causes extreme emotional harm to the children. Advocates for the deported parents are in Central America to help them to find their children.