As reported in last week’s Update a federal court ordered that children under age five be reunited with their families by July 10, and that all other children be reunited with their families by July 26. The administration did not meet the first deadline; only about half of the young children were reunited with their parents, in part because officials were trying to ensure that reunification would be safe for the children and they would be reunited with actual family members. In a July 13 statement HHS said that it has identified 2,551 minors 5 to 17 years of age in the department’s custody who could potentially be eligible for reunification with a parent in the custody of DHS.
Special Pre-Unification Screening For “A Special Needs Child with A Disability.”
On July 18, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it had published its plan for reunifying immigrant children with their parents —The Tri-Department Plan for Stage II of Family Reunification.
Of note — the plan states: “A home study shall be conducted for… a special needs child with a disability.” This step for placing an “unaccompanied alien child” — which is how the children separated at the border are being classified — is actually mandated by the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2008 (at page 122 STAT. 5078, sec. 235(c)(3)(B)); 8 U.S.C. §1232(c)(3)(B)). It is not clear, however, how this requirement is being implemented, given that the parents in the current situation do not have a “home” to study.
On July 19, the administration reported that about 60 percent (1,606) of the children between ages 5 and 17 could be reunited with their parents. The remaining children could not be reunited because their parents had not yet been interviewed, have criminal records or otherwise should not be reconnected, or have waived their right to be unified with their children. (Some parents believe that their children will have a stronger asylum claim than the parent, so elect to leave without their children.) See 364 Children Reunited with Families After Being Separated at Border (The Hill, 7/19/18). During a July 20 status hearing before the court, HHS reported that it had reunited 450 children between the ages of 5 and 17 with their parents. The judge was pleased with this progress. See Judge Praises Administration On Reunifications (The Hill, 7/20/18). July 26 is the deadline by which all children are supposed to be reunited with their parents (assuming safety clearances).