Step one: cleanse the skin?
The public furor over family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border seems to have died down. But we’re just beginning to understand the long-term implications for children and parents who were separated from each other.
From The Washington Post:
Advocates say the effect of the separations is easy to see once children are returned to their parents. In one recent video, a curly-haired toddler squirms away from his mother when they are reunited at a Houston airport after 3½ months apart.
“My love,” his mother says as the boy refuses to hug her back. “I’m your mommy.”
He crawls into a corner, and she dissolves into tears.
A 7-year-old girl who has been in custody in New York since June could not stop crying when lawyers visited her in early August, Turner said.
Taylor Levy, legal coordinator for Annunciation House, a nonprofit organization in El Paso that aids migrants, said some children were rushed to Texas in recent weeks thinking that they would rejoin their parents, only to be returned to shelters without explanation. Others were reunited with their parents on buses and then split up again — allegedly when the parents refused to waive their children’s right to seek asylum so they could be deported together, Levy said.
Lawyers say some parents have not gotten their children back because of minor or years-old offenses that normally would not affect custody decisions, including one parent with a 14-year-old theft conviction. In dozens of other cases, advocates say, it is unclear why parents and children have not been reunited.
The Trump administration is still making moves on its immigration policies that could have more long-lasting effects.
Last Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security introduced a proposal to terminate the Flores Settlement Agreement. Flores is a 1997 agreement that sets the standard for how underage migrants are treated in federal detention facilities. Most importantly, Flores says that children cannot be held in detention for longer than 20 days.
The Trump administration’s proposal says that children and their families can be held in detention for as long as their case is being adjudicated. This is a process that can take months. The administration says it needs to keep them in detention so that they can ensure parents and children show up for their court appearances.
These decisions are being considered at a time when nearly 500 children have not been reunited with their families, as of August 31. This is because their parents were already deported, parents are still being vetted or because DHS has indicated that some parents are ineligible to immediately regain custody.
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Preet Bharara is the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.