ACLU Reaches Agreement With U.S. on Plan to Reunite Children

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the U.S. government have finally agreed on a new plan to reunite hundreds of families which had been separated by immigration officials at the U.S.-Mexican border.

The families were trying to cross into the United States at the border but without proper documentation the adults were arrested and put in jail awaiting trial, and their children were taken from them and put in detention facilities.

Approximately 500 children have still not been given back to their parents, and in some cases the parents have been sent back to their home countries in Central America while their children remained in custody in the United States.

On Thursday U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers made a filing in federal court which stated that the changes in the new plan “would ensure an efficient process for reunifications.” It also said that they would not be requiring that parents removed from the United States be returned for the purpose of being reunited with their children.

But ACLU lawyers in a separate filing with the court wrote that in some cases families “could be made whole” only if parents were returned to the United States for that purpose. They said that the failure to address the rights of parents who had been deported without their children was still a “significant area of dispute.”

The ACLU lawyers also maintained that this one “area of dispute”  “should not impede swift reunification efforts.” They also made clear that they DID “agree to the plan as revised.” The revised plan includes provisions for the government to locate and interview the removed parents who still need to be brought back together with their children.

The new plan is the second stage of government efforts to reunite over 2,500 children with their parents after they had been separated under Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy which required arresting and jailing illegal immigrants.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego ordered the reunifications on June 26 and he still must approve any reunification plan that the ACLU and the government agree to.

As of Thursday, 541 of the children remained separated and under care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The new plan sets forth details concerning how to locate removed parents, interview them, and provide for the children’s safety.

One new plan feature requires the U.S. government to make arrangements for travel for children to be sent back their parents in their home countries.

A weekly hearing with the judge to discuss the reunification process is scheduled for today.