Roughly one quarter of children who have been torn from their families at the border have been reunited with their loved ones. Over the weekend, the Department of Homeland Security issued a vague — and reportedly conditioned — way to bring all of the separated families back together.
DHS gave no timeline on how families would be reunited but said, “The United States government knows the location of all children in its custody and is working to reunite them with their families.”
This “well coordinated” process requires parents who have been detained to call a hotline in order to locate their children. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) designated the Port Isabel Service Processing Center in Texas as the primary unification spot.
But these families must do something for the government first: promise to leave the country and take their children with them.
According to the Texas Tribune, which spoke with a man from Honduras and two immigration attorneys, “Central American men separated from their children and held in a detention facility outside Houston are being told they can reunite with their kids at the airport if they agree to sign a voluntary deportation order now.” The detainee, who the Tribune referred to under the pseudonym Carlos, said he knows at least a handful of other people who received the same offer.
Carlos told the Tribune he agreed to the terms “out of desperation” but cannot go back to Honduras. He is hoping to revoke the agreement he signed and fight for his case. “I need help,” he said.
Anne Chandler, director of a Houston-based justice center for immigrant women and their children, told the Tribune that she was familiar with cases similar to Carlos’.
A spokesman for ICE refused to confirm the Tribune’s allegations without more details on the detainees making the claims. The Tribune refused to provide ICE with any identifying information. Carl Rusnok, the spokesman, called the Tribune’s reporting “unprofessional and unfair.”
But detainees have every reason to want their information protected. While President Trump signed an executive order last week in an ill-planned attempt to stop family separations at the border, he almost immediately backtracked and went back to talking about stronger borders and security.
The fact that undocumented immigrants will have to go through DHS channels to locate their loved ones may complicate this process or even scare detainees. A previous poll of undocumented millennials living in the United States found that roughly 70 percent of them were anxious about government retaliation if they attempted to apply for citizenship — despite this particular group having DACA status. And often, immigrants have more than just themselves to worry about. The same survey found that about 60 percent feared that their personal information would be used against them or their loved ones and would lead to their detention or deportation.