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U.S. Border Patrol agents conduct intake of illegal border crossers at the Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas, Sunday, June 17, 2018.
US Customs and Border Patrol/Flickr

The US Is Still Holding 500 Migrant Children in Custody

Why Global Citizens Should Care
The United Nations calls the separation of families at the US-Mexico border a human rights violation. Keeping families apart doesn’t make it any easier for them to seek asylum from violent conflict, extreme poverty, and persecution. You can join us in taking action to end family separation here

The Trump administration still hasn’t reunited all the migrant families separated at the US-Mexico border under its “zero-tolerance” immigration policy. 

Court papers released Thursday show nearly 500 children are still in US government-operated shelters without their parents, the Washington Post reports. This number doesn’t show a significant change from the nearly 700 children who were still in government custody back in July

Government officials insist they’re moving as fast as possible amid legal roadblocks and logistic limitations, but can’t give a solid guess as to how long it’ll take to carry out the task. 

More than 2,600 children were separated from their parents as the result of the Trump administration’s family separation initiative, introduced May 7 to make sure migrants who crossed the border illegally were served serious consequences. Separated children faced “prison-like” conditions in detention centers. After receiving international backlash, Trump stopped the effort on June 20. A bar on deportation followed after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit, giving the government 30 days to reunite every child. 

Out of 497 children who are still in custody, 22 of whom are below the age of 5, almost two-thirds have parents who were deported in the first weeks of the president’s “zero-tolerance” policy, according to the court papers. 

“I’m really concerned about the longer-term mental health and well-being of the kids,” Christie Turner, the deputy director of legal services for Kids in Need of Defense, told the Washington Post. “How much damage is being done to them?” 

Read more: How You Can Still Help Migrant Families Being Separated at the Border

The children’s lawyers are tracing down their parents in their home countries to figure out what they want for their future. There was an uptick in the number of parents who would rather their children continue pursuing asylum in the US without them because it’s safer---from 139 last week to 167 in the court paper released Thursday. 

The list of complications separated parents face in the process is never-ending, ranging from minor offenses getting in the way to being tricked into giving up their right to seek asylum

Many separated children are also given false hope. Taylor Levy, a legal coordinator for Annunciation House, a nonprofit organization in El Paso, told the Washington Post some children were sent to Texas recently thinking they’d finally see their parents again and ended up turning right back around to shelters without learning why. Those who did end up getting reunited with their families, were split up again when parents wanted them deported together.

Take Action: Call On Your Representatives to #ReuniteFamiliesNow and Stop the Migrant Crisis with Targeted Foreign Aid

There seems to be a disconnect between what the government is saying about making progress and what’s actually being done. In court filings, government lawyers said they’ve reached out to just about all of the 322 deported parents whose children are still in US custody. The ACLU reports that it has been unable to contact as many as 80 parents due to incorrect contact information, and language barriers, according to the Washington Post

Levy said lawyers who called US Immigration and Customs Enforcement since the July deadline inquired about detained parents and were told the children had been released to guardians. It turned out those children remained in government shelters.