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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Friday, July 13, 2018

ACLU says it can't verify migrant reunifications

July 13, 2018

Attorneys seeking to reunify migrant children separated from their parents at the southern border said Thursday that they were not able to verify the Trump administration’s claim that nearly five dozen children had been returned to their parents.

In a federal court filing, the American Civil Liberties Union accused immigration officials of preventing attorneys and human rights workers from verifying the 57 reunifications between parents and under-5 children announced Thursday morning by the Health and Human Services and Homeland Security departments.

Immigration officials broke a promise to notify attorneys when and where each reunification would take place, the ACLU said, and to allow third parties to witness them. Instead, the ACLU said, authorities “only provided a general prediction,” making the reunifications impossible to confirm.

Asked to comment, spokespeople for DHS and the DOJ declined.

In its filing, the ACLU also accused immigration officials of compelling some parents to pay for travel. One parent, the ACLU said, was told to wire $1,900 to Western Union to cover reunification costs, while another had to assume the cost of a plane ticket after being told a flight had been purchased for the child. In addition, the ACLU said, some migrants “possibly” were asked to pay for DNA tests, but it didn’t provide details.

One parent, the ACLU said, was left alone by Immigration and Customs Enforcement at a bus stop with her children, including a 6-month-old baby. Another was transported through a series of ICE centers in New Jersey and Michigan without the parent’s attorney being notified beforehand. The lawyer also was blocked from attending the reunification, according to the filing.

“Class Members’ individual lawyers and service providers were left frantically scrambling to find their clients and provide support,” the ACLU wrote.

The 57 children under age 5 that DHS said it reunited with their parents represented little more than half the 103 children in that age group held in custody, according to HHS. Agency officials said the other 46 couldn’t be reunited with their parents for logistical reasons, including deportations of some parents.

The ACLU asked the court to require DHS to reunify the dozen deported parents with their children within seven days of their obtaining travel documents, and to pay for mental health counseling for children who suffered trauma.

HHS remained silent Thursday on the precise number of children of all ages who have been separated from their parents, though last week HHS Secretary Alex Azar estimated them to number nearly 3,000. ACLU attorneys asked the government for a complete list by Monday, along with reunification plans. Under a June injunction by District Court Judge Dana Sabraw, all under-5 children separated from their parents at the border were required to be reunited with them by July 10, with the rest to be reunited July 26.

Government attorneys told the court that the government complied fully with the court’s order and gave a detailed breakdown of why some of the children weren’t reunited, including instances in which the adults were wanted for criminal charges in other countries, or parental verification wasn’t complete. Administration officials have said the verification efforts, while slowing the process, keep children from danger.

“As of this morning, the initial reunifications were completed,” Azar, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a joint statement earlier Thursday. “The Trump administration does not approach this mission lightly, and we intend to continue our good faith efforts to reunify families.”

For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

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