ACLU Says Nearly 250 Immigrant Children Still Separated From Parents

A mother shields the face of her son's from the sun, as her husband carries their sleeping boy, 3, after their family illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border on Dec. 7, 2015 near Rio Grande City, Texas.
John Moore / Getty Images

The American Civil Liberties Union said that nearly 250 immigrant children remain separated from their parents in government facilities, despite a federal judge’s order in June to reunite the families within 30 days.

The ACLU revealed that 245 parents are still in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, or ORR, after analyzing the latest government report on the issue.

In the government status report, according to the ACLU, 2,654 children were initially determined to have been possibly separated from their parents, and 2,363 have left ORR custody. That leaves the 245 children still in custody as of Monday.

“It’s taking forever, and it shouldn’t be taking this long,” ACLU’s Lee Gelernt, the lead attorney on the child separation lawsuit, told the Washington Post. “It is an enormous task, but on the other hand, it’s the United States government. When they really prioritize something, they can get it done.”

The ACLU said it found that more than two-thirds of the children taken from their parents were boys and more than 1,000 who were initially taken were under 10, the Washington Post stated. The organization said that the ORR, the agency in charge of the separated children, is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

An immigrant from El Salvador, seven months pregnant, she said, stands next to a U.S. Border Patrol truck after she and others turned themselves in to border agents on Dec. 7, 2015 near Rio Grande City, Texas.
An immigrant from El Salvador, seven months pregnant, she said, stands next to a U.S. Border Patrol truck after she and others turned themselves in to border agents on Dec. 7, 2015 near Rio Grande City, Texas. John Moore / Getty Images

The separated children, according to the ACLU, were spread across 121 shelters in 17 states, with 40 percent landing in facilities in Arizona, California, and Texas, the report noted.

The ACLU charged in its review that current numbers may not be accurate after the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general’s report claimed that the Department of Human Services “struggled to provide accurate, complete, reliable data on family separations.”

“The eventual reunification of these children and parents was, by all accounts, not a priority of those who designed and carried out the policy,” the ACLU wrote. “The ACLU has not undertaken an independent data investigation, and instead has had to rely on the numbers provided to us by the government. Thus, this data may well undercount the number of children who were separated or contain other gaps.”

In the meantime, Donald Trump went to Twitter and threatened several Central American countries on Thursday if they did not stop their citizens from crossing into Mexico and into the United States. The president called out Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, threatening to cut off aid if they did not take action.

According to The Hill, the U.S. gave roughly $248 million in aid to Guatemala, $175 million to Honduras, and $115 million to El Salvador in fiscal year 2017.