According to documents filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, after detaining immigrant families at the border, immigration officials corralled dozens of immigrant parents into rooms and gave them only a few minutes to decide if they wanted to leave their children behind in the U.S. before being deported.
Officials from ICE gave parents forms in both English and Spanish and requested their signatures, despite many them being illiterate and only having the ability to speak indigenous dialects. Some of these detained individuals thought they were signing a form that would allow them to get their kids back, while others didn’t have any clue about what they were signing, the ACLU says.
The American Immigration Council was able to interview 52 of the parents who the government said waived their right to get their kids back. According t one of the group’s attorneys, “Many of these individuals indicated that they felt coerced into relinquishing their rights. Still others appeared totally unaware that they had done so.”
Two of the fathers who were interviewed said they thought they were signing a form that would enable the government to release their children. The court filing said “One of these fathers burst into tears repeatedly out of fear for his son and said he had signed the form under enormous stress and confusion.”
Since a court ordered the Trump administration to reunite separated families, 1,637 separated parents are eligible for reunification. While 1,012 have been reunited with their children, 914 parents have been deemed ineligible. This includes the 127 parents in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention that agents claim signed a form that said they do not want to be reunified with their kids. An ACLU court filing details that at least 27 of those parents now say they in fact did not want to be reunited with their children.
Of those who have been labeled ineligible for reunification, 463 have most likely been deported. To make things even more complicated, 900 of the eligible parents have final removal orders. This means they can potentially be deported after being reunited with their children. Unfortunately, these parents must decide between returning with their child to the country they fled and leaving their child in the U.S. to pursue asylum on their own.
District Judge Dana Sabraw, the judge who ordered the government to reunify all separated families, temporarily blocked the government from deporting any parents with deportation orders so that they could have time to talk to their kids and lawyers about their available legal options.
In its filing, the ACLU argued that the cramped conditions of the detention centers and limited access to information about pending cases is keeping immigration attorneys from providing their clients with legal advice for how to handle their case. ICE said that attorneys have unrestricted access to the families they represent.
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