HHS now estimates under 3,000 kids separated from parents in government custody

06 Juillet, 2018, 14:28 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • HHS now estimates under 3,000 kids separated from parents in government custody

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters on Thursday that the government now has just under 3,000 separated immigrant children in its care, backtracking on previous claims that the number was closer to 2,047.

However, Azar warned that entire families may remain in the custody of immigration authorities for extended periods, even those who are claiming asylum. On Thursday's conference call, Azar said the number is now somewhere under 3,000, because the federal court order covers a wider class of separated children than his agency was originally counting, including hundreds more that were separated before Trump's "zero tolerance" policy officially went into effect. "To our knowledge this is a cheek swab and is being done to expedite parental verification and ensuring reunification with verified parents due to child welfare concerns", the official said. The administration has until next Tuesday, or 14 days from the court order, to reunite 100 kids who are under five with their parents, and until the end of July, or 30 days from the court order, to reunite every separated child.

Government personnel are now collecting cheek swab DNA samples from parents and children in order to verify family relationships, said Jonathan White, deputy director for children's programs at the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the HHS office that takes care of the children. "The fact that the US government lost track of which child goes with which parent shows you the lack of competence that they have about this issue".

Falcon, communications director for RAICES, a nonprofit in Texas that offers free and low-priced legal services to immigrants and refugees, called the move deplorable because collecting such sensitive data would allow the government to conduct surveillance on the children "for the rest of their lives".

After a preliminary injunction handed down by a federal judge in late June halted President Donald Trump's policy of separating migrant parents and children at the border, the government has scrambled to comply with the court's tight deadlines for reunification.

Once HHS reunifies the families, they will be in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security, Azar said.

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Mr. Azar said he's surged manpower to meet the court orders.

Over the past few weeks, multiple federal courts have ruled against the Trump administration's immigration practices, and public outrage and political pressure is mounting amid a flow of news reports and watchdog investigations documenting widespread human suffering. A court hearing on the administration's efforts and plans is scheduled for tomorrow.

Falcon also said that it's not possible for the migrant children, some who are as young as two months old, to give consent to have their DNA collected. DHS has already started moving some parents to facilities closer to facilities where their children are being kept.

Attorneys representing migrant families told CNN some of their clients have been approached by individuals who identified themselves as health officials or were wearing military-style clothing.

Only recently, the president had told Republicans in Congress to stop wasting their time on immigration until after November's elections, but now Trump is insisting that Congress "FIX OUR INSANE IMMIGRATION LAWS NOW!" He says when people enter the country illegally, they should be told "OUT", and forced to leave, "just as they would if they were standing on your front lawn".

Congress has failed to pass immigration bills this year.

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