ACLU: Fed Gov’t Not Giving Promised Notice As Immigrant Families Reunited

on June 26, 2018 in Brownsville, United States.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images North America

The ACLU said Thursday that the government dropped off a mother, recently separated at the border from her children per Trump administration policy, “alone at a bus stop with her children, one of whom was six months old,” without providing proper notice to lawyers suing to force the reunifications.

As a result, reunified families are not receiving legal assistance and support services, according to the ACLU, which complained that it is having trouble tracking the reunifications.

The allegations came in a joint status report filed by the ACLU, representing families separated by Trump administration policy, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The filing largely covered what one ICE and one Health and Human Services official told reporters on a conference call earlier Thursday — that of the 103 children under 5 years old who a court ordered be reunited with their parents by Tuesday, 57 had been reunited by Thursday.

The government gave somewhat more detailed explanations in the court filing for the 46 children who remained separated from their parents, including listing the charges or convictions of 11 parents whose criminal backgrounds ICE said excluded them from the court order.

The ACLU pushed back on a number of fronts, starting with what it said was a lack of information from the government about those newly excluded from the lawsuit.

“Plaintiffs have not yet received any specific information about most of the 23 individuals who Defendants claim have dropped out of the class or are ineligible for reunification,” the ACLU’s portion of the joint filing read. “Plaintiffs have therefore not been able to verify whether those parents are, indeed, Class Members eligible for reunification at this time. Plaintiffs have also not been able to determine whether any criminal convictions those parents have render them a danger to their children—and therefore not entitled to reunification at all—or merely not Class Members.”

ICE did list some information in the court filing Thursday, listing things like “Robbery conviction” and “Wanted by El Salvador” as reasons certain adults had been excluded from the class deemed eligible to be reunited with their children.

The ACLU also said it hadn’t received any “independent verification” of the families ICE claimed had been reunited.

And, as evidenced by the mother left alone with her children at a bus stop, the civil liberties group asserted that ICE had broken an earlier pledge to “provide Plaintiffs’ counsel with notice of the time and place for each reunification, so that Plaintiffs’ counsel could arrange for private and NGO service providers to assist the families and verify reunification.”

“This did not happen,” the filing said plainly. Noting the mother and her six-month-old, the ACLU said that “through a series of phone calls between the Class Member, her attorney, and another advocate, the Class Member finally obtained a bus ticket on Tuesday around midnight.”

Referring to parents who’d been deported without their children Thursday morning, Matthew Albence, executive associate director of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations division, told reporters that ICE was “working with the consular officials in the foreign governments to provide information that would help facilitate” their reunification with their children.

The ACLU said in Thursday’s filing that its lawyers were “not aware of any specific steps Defendants have taken even to locate these 12 [deported] Class Members.”

Finally, in an effort to avoid similar missed deadlines for the next category of children — those aged 5 and up — to be reunited with their parents, the ACLU proposed a series of benchmarks for the government to meet in advance of the July 26 deadline, in addition to asking the court that the government be forced to set aside money for mental health counseling for the children.

Read the joint status report below:

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