Migrant Families Often Must Pay Thousands To Be Reunited With Children

The New York Times has reported that immigrants into the United States who want to be reunited with separated family members often must pay high fees and exorbitant travel costs, as well as overcome bureaucratic hurdles in order to be reunited.

The fees arise after family members have been located and they attempt to obtain custody of the children from the migrant shelters where they are currently being held. The transportation costs arise when family members are told they must pay for airfare to relocate the children to where ever the new custodial family member is residing.

In writing the article, Times reporters interviewed many people who had applied to become sponsors of separated children and were trying to get the detained children released from federal custody.  According to these family members, federal immigration authorities have put in place a series of obstacles which are time consuming and onerous to overcome. In addition they are being charged fees of hundreds or in some cases even thousands of dollars.

Family members who want to become sponsors of detained migrant children are required to show the official many different documents that will prove they are related to the migrant children they want to sponsor and transport to their locations.  In addition, they must prove to federal authorities that they are “financially capable”, according to the Times.

Required documents to become a sponsor of a migrant child include proof of income, rent records and utility bills. After they provide these documents families are then forced to pay airfare and other transportation costs that can amount to thousands of dollars.

For example, a Salvadoran woman had to pay the government $4,000 in order to fly her young niece from a migrant shelter in Texas to California where she lives.  A construction worker from California said he had to pay $1,800 to fly a nephew from Houston to Los Angeles. These amounts are extremely burdensome to immigrant families who are usually low paid and without significant financial resources to cover these costs.

According to the Times, there are over 11,000 children currently housed in government migrant shelters, all of whom were captured after entering the United States without proper documentation. These numbers have increased due to Donald Trump’s zero tolerance policy whereby adults are arrested after entering the U.S., and any minors accompanying them are taken away and put in shelters. Although the exact numbers are unclear, there are well over 2,000 migrant children in shelters who have been separated from their parents since the zero tolerance policy began.

Even though Trump signed an executive order ending the policy of separating children from their parents or guardians, thousands of migrant families have yet to be reunited. It has never been clear what the government’s plan was to reunite these families, and the excessive costs involved to reunite family members will only slow down the process.