Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"The fact of the matter is that many parents may be in hiding, considering that they have all been deported to countries which they fled in the first place." (Photo: Illana Panich Linsman)

"The fact of the matter is that many parents may be in hiding, considering that they have all been deported to countries which they fled in the first place." (Photo: Illana Panich Linsman)

More Than 500 Children Are Still Separated. Here’s What Comes Next

Every additional day that children wait to be with their parents is damaging — it’s simple unacceptable that the government had information that could help reunite them faster but sat on it

Amrit Cheng

 by Speak Freely / ACLU

It’s been nearly one month since the federal court's deadline for the Trump administration to reunite separated families, but hundreds of children are still waiting. In fact, as of 12:00 pm on August 16, 565 immigrant children remained in government custody.

For 366 of those children, including six who are under the age of five, reunion is made all the more complicated by the fact that the government already deported their parents — without a plan for how they would be ever be located.

After forcefully rejecting the government’s assertion that the ACLU is solely responsible for finding deported parents — rather than say, the administration who deported them — the court has ordered both us and the administration to create a plan to locate and reunite deported parents with their children.

Here’s what you need to know about it.

Who is looking for the parents?

At the court’s order, the government appointed agency leads for the Department of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, the State Department, and Justice Department.

In order to aid in the effort to locate the hundreds of parents whom the government deported without their children, we’ve formed a steering committee. It’s led by the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, who will work with the government to locate and reunify parents who have been removed from the United States or released from ICE custody into the United States without their children. Our partners, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC),and Justice in Motion will serve as members of the Steering Committee, and will, among other tasks, facilitate communication regarding the wishes of parents and children who are still separated, and provide in-country support for locating deported parents.

Has the government provided the information that the ACLU needs?

Roughly two weeks ago, the government finally turned over a list of phone numbers for the majority of deported parents. With our steering committee, we’re focused on making contact with every deported parent advising them of their rights to be reunified.

Unfortunately, thus far, many of the phone numbers have been inoperable. The fact of the matter is that many parents may be in hiding, considering that they have all been deported to countries which they fled in the first place.

It certainly doesn’t help that the government may have had this information for more than a month before handing it over to us. We’ve heard reports from immigration attorneys on the ground that the phone number and contact information has actually been available in the children’s case files for quite some time, and certainly ahead of the July 26 deadline for all children to be reunited.

Every additional day that children wait to be with their parents is damaging — it’s simple unacceptable that the government had information that could help reunite them faster but sat on it.

Where will the families be reunited?

The government has argued that families can only be reunited in their countries of origin. This means that children who have a current asylum claim may have to forfeit theirs in order be reunited with their parents. If their parents don’t want them to lose the opportunity to seek protection in the U.S., children will have to navigate the asylum system without their parents, while bearing the weight of continued separation.

Parents who may have been misled or coerced into signing away their asylum rights will be left without redress. Already in this lawsuit, we’ve filed declarations of parents who were pressured by ICE officers to give up asylum claims, or to sign forms that they were unable to read.

What happens to the families  in the U.S. who have been reunited?

In a related family separation case, M.M.M. v. Sessions, Judge Sabraw has blocked deportations of families in the U.S., while the government and legal advocates work on a joint plan.

Before this ruling, which impacts more than 1,000 families, parents were being put in the position of being forced to choose between being deported together, meaning that they would waiving their child’s right to seek asylum, or being deported without their children. 

What comes next?

We will be back in court on Friday, August 24.


© 2021 ACLU
Amrit Cheng

Amrit Cheng

Amrit Cheng is a digital communications strategist with the ACLU. Follow her on Twitter: @amritcheng

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

GOP 'Silence Speaks Volumes,' Says Ilhan Omar as Boebert's Bigotry Goes Unpunished

"Normalizing this bigotry not only endangers my life but the lives of all Muslims. Anti-Muslim bigotry has no place in Congress."

Brett Wilkins ·


Africans Should Be 'Applauded, Not Punished,' Say Advocates Amid Omicron Travel Ban

"What is going on right now is inevitable," said African Union Vaccine Delivery Alliance co-chair Dr. Ayoade Alakija. "It's a result of the world's failure to vaccinate in an equitable, urgent, and speedy manner."

Brett Wilkins ·


Biden Drilling Report Blasted as 'Shocking Capitulation to the Needs of Corporate Polluters'

"Greenlighting more fossil fuel extraction, then pretending it's OK by nudging up royalty rates, is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic," said one campaigner.

Jessica Corbett ·


UNESCO Members Adopt First Global AI Ethics Agreement 'To Benefit Humanity'

"We're at a critical juncture in history," said Ethics in Tech founder Vahid Razavi. "We need as humans to come together and decide what is the best course of action to take with these technologies before they surpass us in their abilities."

Brett Wilkins ·


Progressive US Lawmakers Mark Black Friday With Calls to Pass the PRO Act

"The right to organize, fight for better working conditions, and fair pay must always be protected."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo