US government misses court deadline to reunite separated families

World Today

The U.S. government has missed a federal judge’s deadline to reunite some 2,500 immigrant children with their parents.

They were separated after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, as part of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” crackdown.

CGTN’s Roee Ruttenberg reports.

A first deadline – earlier this month – to reunite children under the age of five with their parents was only partial met. A second deadline expired on Thursday. It was specifically aimed at older kids and their families.

Federal officials said around half have been reunited. But they’ve deemed hundreds of parents ineligible, and said hundreds of others have already been deported without their children.

“None of us actually believed they were going to do it,” said Rochelle Garza, an immigration lawyer based in the border town of Brownsville. “What they’re doing is justifying why they didn’t do it.”

Garza represents some of the children being held. “In the short term, it’s very simple: end the family separation, just reunite the families, don’t remove them from the country, if they signed an expedited removal order, cancel it. Allow them to go through their right to seek asylum in the United States, to go through the immigration process.”

The separations triggered a national — and international – outcry. Brownsville activist Elisa Filippone got involved with Angry Tias and Abuelas, or, in full English, Angry Aunts and Grandmothers. When asked if she’s more aunt or more grandmother, Filippone says, “I’m just angry. I’m more angry than anything.”

The group loads-up donated backpacks with goods like toiletries and toys and hand them out to the migrants. They drop off the backpacks at a nearby border crossing, where many families are waiting to enter the U.S., and at the Brownsville bus station, where released detainees are often dropped off. “Some of them are released from the detention center and they put their things in a plastic bag, or they give them this sack that looks like an onion sack. And that’s what they have. And I just try to give somebody a little dignity and a little hope.”

About 10 minutes by car from the bus station is Casa Presidente, a so-called “tender age” facility houses babies and children. Their parents are being detained at facilities all across the United States. And those who are lucky enough to be reunited with their children are flown to South Texas.

A month ago, 30-year old Ashley Casale, from New York, drove more than 3,000 kilometers with her son, hoping to speak with the children inside Casa Presidente. When they were denied entry, Casale and her son set up a tent outside. And they haven’t left.

“It hasn’t been a huge sacrifice for me,” Casale says. “The ones who are really making the sacrifices are the kids inside, and the parents who are agonizing, some not even knowing where their kids are still. We’re going to stay until we get these answers, or until these kids are reunited.”