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07.06.2018 / Press Release

The Trump Administration Must Make Reuniting Thousands of Families an Urgent Priority

Washington, D.C.—The Trump administration’s Justice Department has asked a federal judge for more time to comply with a court order to reunify children separated from their families as part of the administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy. At the same time, governors from states where migrant children are being housed urged the Trump administration to update them on progress toward reuniting children with their families In recent days, it has become clear that the federal agencies responsible for reunifying families do not have a clear plan for how or when these children will see their parents again. View Families USA’s analysis of the impact of separation on children’s health and well-being.

Families USA’s Director of Director of Early Learning and Child Welfare Initiatives, Shadi Houshyar, had the following statement:

“As the Trump administration’s family separation policy was getting underway, Chief of Staff John Kelly declared that, ‘The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever.’ Kelly’s phrasing reflects cavalier ignorance of both the logistical realities and health ramifications of family separation. State and local child welfare agencies struggle with the formidable challenges of safely reuniting children with parents every day. And the Office of Refugee Resettlement is not a child welfare agency and should never have had this responsibility.

“The futures of more than 3,000 children who have been separated from their parents are now in grave danger. It’s been weeks since we learned of this crisis and there is no evidence that the federal agencies responsible for reunifying families have a clear plan for how or when these children, including infants and toddlers, will see their parents again.

“We are concerned that the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services have not established the protocols or allocated the resources necessary to meet the court-ordered deadlines for reuniting children with their families. What’s clear is that the Trump administration does not know exactly how many of the children in its care were separated from their parents under the zero-tolerance policy and that it has yet to account for the number of children, if any, who have already been reunified with their parents. 

“We are worried that children will not be reunited with their families in accordance with court-ordered deadlines, and that reunification for separated children could mean placement with any long-term sponsor, including foster care, and not their parents – even when reunifying with their parents is in their best interest. These children came to this country with their parents and families should be reunified whenever possible. Separation of a child from his or her parents should be done only in extreme cases, not as a standing matter of policy.

“The Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy and subsequent missteps and actions have caused ‘irreparable harm.’ The longer children and parents are kept apart, the more damage is done. Children need their families. This administration forcibly separated families and it must now bring them back together.”