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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/11/18

As Trump Admin Misses Deadline to Unite Families, HHS Head Calls Jailing Kids an Act of "Generosity"

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The Trump administration failed to meet a court-imposed deadline Tuesday to reunite all of the children under the age of five whom immigration officials took from their parents at the border and then sent to jails and detention centers across the country. Only 38 of the 102 children under five have been reunited with their parents, some of whom say their young children did not even recognize them at first after the traumatic, protracted separation.

"On Tuesday, Judge Dana Sabraw reiterated that all separated children -- 3,000 in total -- must be reunited with their parents by July 26, saying, "These are firm deadlines; they are not aspirational goals." On Tuesday night, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar told CNN that the United States was acting "generously" toward the migrant children.

For more, we speak with Lomi Kriel, immigration reporter for the Houston Chronicle, and Barbara Hines, an immigration lawyer and founder of the University of Texas Immigration Law Clinic.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The Trump administration failed to meet a court-imposed deadline Tuesday to reunite all children under the age of five who were separated from their parents at the border. According to the government, just 38 children out of the 102 children under the age of five have been reunited with their parents. Attorney Lee Gelernt of the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the Trump administration for missing the deadline.

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LEE GELERNT: We are extremely disappointed that the government looks like they're not going to reunify all the eligible children today and that they have not even tracked down the removed parents. But we do think, since the judge became involved in the compliance process as of this past Friday, things have taken a real step forward, and there has been progress. We are hoping that that means, from now on, no deadline will be missed, either for these under five or for any of the 2,000-plus going forward.

AMY GOODMAN: Over 60 children under the age of five remain separated from their parents, as well as nearly 3,000 children over the age of five. On Tuesday, Judge Dana Sabraw reiterated that all separated children must be reunited with their parents by July 26. He said, quote, "These are firm deadlines; they are not aspirational goals." On Tuesday night, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar told CNN the United States was acting generously toward the migrant children.

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY ALEX AZAR: It is one of the great acts of American generosity and charity, what we are doing for these unaccompanied kids who are smuggled into our country or come across illegally.

AMY GOODMAN: Secretary Azar went on to explain the delays in reuniting the other children with their parents.

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY ALEX AZAR: We could put children back with individuals who are murderers, kidnappers, rapists or are not their parents, but we've worked with the court to ensure that we do our duty, which is to protect child welfare and ensure that they are in fact that. I could release all of the kids by 10:55 p.m., but I don't think you want that. I know the court doesn't want that.

AMY GOODMAN: We're joined right now by two guests. Lomi Kriel is an immigration reporter for the Houston Chronicle, joining us from Houston. And Barbara Hines is an immigration lawyer and founder of the University of Texas Immigration Law Clinic. She has worked on immigration issues in Texas, including cases involving immigrant parents separated from their children, and will tell us the story of Flores, the Flores settlement. But we're going to Lomi Kriel in Houston first.

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Lomi, you told the story of a woman who you witnessed in court just last week, or the week before, who was raped by two police officers. Can you repeat that story here?

LOMI KRIEL: Sure. So, I was in Brownsville last week and sat in on a credible fear hearing in the Port Isabel Detention Center, where most of the separated parents are being held. And all of the women in this hearing had already had their credible fear interviews denied, which is the first step to getting asylum. And they were asking the judge to reconsider their claims. One of the women was this mother who told the judge that she had been raped by police officers in the country where she's from in Central America, and that she was coming here to ask for asylum because they threatened to kill her and her family. She came here with four of her children, including one she was still breast-feeding. And when Border Patrol agents found her, they prosecuted the mom for coming here illegally, and took away her children, placing them in foster care. And at the hearing last week, she told the judge that she had been unable to articulate her asylum claim because she was so upset about her separated children and not knowing where they were. And she said she hadn't yet been able to hear anything about them. The judge eventually decided -- he sternly questioned her, but eventually told her that he was going to give her another chance to make her asylum claim. But as of last week, she still had not heard from her children. And we don't know if she's been reunited with them yet at this point.

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