Friday, April 12, 2024

As deadline approaches, Trump Administration trying to hurry family reunification efforts

For 24 hours, attorney Ofelia Calderon couldn’t find her client, Bety Mena Torres, a migrant who had been depressed since she was separated from her daughter at the border.

Mena had been held in Port Isabel Detention Center since June, but last week Calderon received a call from another detainee saying that Mena had disappeared. After a frantic search, including checking the government’s locator service, she found that Mena had been moved to a third detention center in Dilley, Texas, where she was reunited with her daughter.

Behind the emotional reunions of children and parents separated at the border is a whirlwind of confusion, lawyers and advocates are scurrying to track down families who have been shuffled among detention centers and in some cases deported. The movement of migrant parents and children has ramped up in the last couple of weeks as the Trump administration faces a Thursday deadline to reunify the separated families.

On Tuesday the administration said it would meet the deadline and reunite roughly 1,600 parents deemed “eligible” to be reconnected with their children. To meet the deadline, attorneys say the administration is carrying out parent-child reunifications in parking lots of detention centers, and immigrants are being moved late at night to other detention centers or dropped at shelters or centers run by nonprofits, often without lawyers being notified.

Attorneys say that amid this chaos, some parents are not being fully informed of their rights or are choosing the shortest path toward being reunited with their children, even if that means giving up on a chance to stay in the U.S.

Attorneys say they’ve spoken to some mothers who stopped pursuing their asylum cases after being told that continuing to fight would keep them in detention and separated from their children while others have unknowingly signed forms saying they agreed to be deported.