According to court filings filed on Wednesday, dozens of immigrant parents detained under Trump’s zero-tolerance policy were forced or tricked into signing forms agreeing to be deported quickly, and without their children.
Today is the deadline set by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw from California to reunify all families separated under Trump’s zero-tolerance policy.
On Monday, the federal government told Judge Sabraw that an estimated 1,600 parents deemed “eligible” have been reunited with their children or will be by today’s deadline.
This leaves roughly 950 parents still separated from their children. The reason?
The same federal government that inhumanely separated these parents from their children and has inhumanely kept them locked away since, has deemed them “ineligible” to be reunited with their children. These include parents that have either already been deported, parents with criminal records, and a number of other reasons.
Out of the estimated 950 “ineligible parents,” about 450 have already been deported by the federal government back to their countries of origin.
To make matters worse, many of these parents are coming out saying government officials tricked them into signing their own deportation orders or to give up their right for asylum.
“They showed me a form and told me that I needed to sign the form so that I could be reunified with my son,” said a Honduran asylum seeker identified only as H.G.A. in testimony filed in U.S. District Court in San Diego, the New York Times reported.
The fact that this may be the case for most of the parents already deported is not so far fetched.
According to the New York Times, an official from the Department of Homeland Security stated a “notice of rights” is posted both in English and in Spanish in all the detention center facilities. The official also said that the form waiving reunification must be read to parents in a language they understand.
It would be nice to think that the federal government is doing everything they can to make sure that these parents really understand what they are signing and the consequences from doing so, but it seems as though they are trying to ensure the opposite.
Many of these parents come from rural communities with low education levels or only speaking their native language, making it damn near impossible for these parents to make the best choice possible for them and their children.
The ACLU and Judge Sabraw are also skeptical of the government’s list of parents “not eligible” for reunification.
“It’s the reality of a policy that was in place that resulted in large numbers of families being separated without forethought as to reunification and keeping track of people,” Judge Sabraw continued. “And that’s the fallout we’re seeing… It appears there’s a large number of parents who are unaccounted for or who may have been removed without their child.”
Many of these parents are having to make the tough decision of being deported together or to remain separated by choosing to leave their children under the care of HHS until they are sponsored by a family member.
However, the fact that the federal government has not provided reasons behind the more than 450 parents already deported, or a list showing that they voluntarily chose to leave their children behind, shows that many of these parents weren’t given that choice at all, and are now thousands of miles away from their children.
With the deadline upon us, what the public needs now are explanations.
The federal government can’t claim to have fixed the crisis they created until every child and parent hurt by the infamous zero-tolerance policy is reunited with their parent or with their sponsor.