Parents in immigration detention who’ve been separated from their children are being told their families can be reunited if they sign voluntary deportation orders, the Texas Tribune reported Sunday.
The paper cited an unnamed Honduran man who told the paper that he and the majority of the roughly 20 to 25 others he was with in the IAH Polk County Secure Adult Detention Center, outside Houston, had been given the same offer.
“Desperate” to see his 6-year-old daughter, in the paper’s words, the man “said two federal officials suggested he’d be reunited with his daughter at the airport if he agreed to sign the order, which could lead to him being repatriated to his violence-torn home country in less than two weeks.”
The man is now trying to revoke that paperwork, which he signed, and appeal his rejected claim of “credible fear” — the first step of applying for asylum protections — to an immigration judge.
The man said he was told that in signing the order he would not be deported without his daughter, but there have already been numerous cases of just that happening to other separated families. And, given that parents and children separated by the Trump administration policy can sometimes be states away from each other, reunification is logistically tricky, to say the least.
“I doubt they would put his child on a plane to get her to where he would get deported out from, especially if she’s in Arizona,” Cynthia Milian, a private attorney working with the Tahirih Justice Center who had spoken to the paper’s source, told the Tribune. “I just don’t see that happening.”
Tahirih’s Houston director, Anne Chandler, told the Tribune she’d heard a nearly identical account of such an offer from another migrant at the facility.
A spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Carl Rusnok, told the Tribune that ICE “cannot research vague allegations.” The paper did not give ICE the man’s identifying details.
President Donald Trump last week, under immense political pressure, signed an executive order that he said was meant to keep families together in indefinite detention as their cases proceed through the immigration system. However, the Flores Settlement still bars child detention for more than 20 days, making the executive order untenable in a couple weeks. The Justice Department has asked a federal court to modify that settlement.
Read the Tribune’s full report here.