IMMIGRATION DEBATE | Group says it takes in 30 parents separated from kids


EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A Texas charitable organization is saying 32 immigrant parents separated from their children after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border were freed into its care, but they don’t know where their kids are or when they might see them again despite government assurances that family reunification would be well organized.

The release on Sunday is believed to be the first, large one of its kind since President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday that preserved a “zero-tolerance” policy for entering the country illegally but ended the practice of separating immigrant parents and children.

Ruben Garcia, director of Annunciation House in El Paso, said the group of both mothers and fathers includes some from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras who arrived to his group after federal authorities withdrew criminal charges for illegal entry.

Garcia would not provide names or personal details of the parents, and media couldn’t speak with them. Department of Homeland Security officials said they could not check the veracity of the claims without more specific identifying information to check into cases.

A Saturday night fact sheet by the Homeland Security and other agencies said authorities know the location of all children in custody after separating them from their families at the border and are working to reunite them. It called the reunification process “well-coordinated.”

It also said parents must request that their child be deported with them. In the past, the fact sheet says, many parents elected to be deported without their children. That may be a reflection of violence or persecution they face in their home countries.

It doesn’t state how long it might take to reunite families. Texas’ Port Isabel Service Processing Center has been set up as the staging ground for the families to be reunited prior to deportation.

How the government would reunite families has been unclear because they are first stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, with children taken into custody by the Department of Health and Human Services and adults detained through U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is under the Department of Homeland Security. Children have been sent to far-flung shelters around the country, raising alarm that parents might never know where their children can be found.

At least 2,053 minors who were separated at the border were being cared for in HHS-funded facilities, the fact sheet said.

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