Two days after a court-imposed deadline, the Trump administration said Thursday that just 57 of more than 100 children under the age of 5 have been reunited with their parents after they were separated at the border under the “zero tolerance” policy. This comes as the Trump administration has announced a new asylum policy at the US-Mexico border, which instructs immigration officers to immediately reject asylum seekers who say they are fleeing gangs or domestic violence. We’re joined by Renée Feltz, Democracy Now! correspondent and producer who has long reported on the criminalization of immigrants, family detention, and the business of detention. Her new story for The Nation, reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, is headlined “For Some Migrant Families, a Second Separation Awaits.”
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman. This is Democracy Now! Two days after a court-imposed deadline, the Trump administration said Thursday that just 57 of the 103 children under the age of 5 have been reunited with their parents, after they were separated at the border under the “zero tolerance” policy. Officials said they could not reunite the other 46 children because their parents have been accused of crimes, because the children weren’t related to the people they were separated from, or, in at least a dozen cases, because US immigration authorities had already deported their parents. In total, about 3,000 separated children are in detention centers and facilities across the United States. A judge has ordered all separated children reunited with their parents by July 26. Some migrant parents who have been released from detention say they’ve been unable to reunite with their children because of bureaucratic hurdles.
On Wednesday, Democracy Now!’s Laura Gottesdiener spoke with a Honduran mother who had been separated from her two children at the border. After being released from the Hutto detention center in Texas, she flew here to New York to try to reunite with her children, being held at one of Cayuga Centers’ facilities in East Harlem, but she’s not been able to get her children released to her.
MARIA: [translated] My name is Maria, and I’m in New York. I’m here looking for my children. They have them in here.
LAURA GOTTESDIENER: Why are you out here, when your children are inside?
MARIA: [translated] Because I was separated from them. And then I was released last Friday from detention, but my children are still here, inside, and they won’t release them to me. They say the fingerprints my sister and husband sent still haven’t arrived. And now, today, they’re asking for my fingerprints. I need this process to be faster. I need my children to be with me. My family has spent a month fighting to get my children released, and so far it hasn’t been possible. My family hasn’t been able. My husband and my sister have come here, but they just keep saying that their fingerprints haven’t arrived yet. So I need this process to be faster, because I want to be with my children already. This is really difficult for us, what we’re suffering as mothers. We’re asking for help, so the process can be faster and our children can be reunited quickly with us.
LAURA GOTTESDIENER: How old are your children?
MARIA: [translated] One is 11 years old, and the other one is 7 years old.
LAURA GOTTESDIENER: And where are you from?
MARIA: [translated] From Honduras.
LAURA GOTTESDIENER: And what’s your message to the public and to your children?
MARIA: [translated] To my children, I love them so much, and I’m suffering so much for them. And to the public that’s been fighting for us, I want to say thank you, and I hope you keep supporting us, so our families can be together soon, because this is really difficult for us.
We came to this country looking for protection, and look how we’ve ended up. They’ve taken our children from us. This is so difficult. As a mother, I’ve been so hurt by what they’ve done to me, all because I left my country, fleeing from the gangs. I sold my house to protect my children. And now, here, they’ve separated me from them. It’s so hard living through this.
All I’m asking for is your compassion. And to the president, give me my children back as soon as possible. That is what I need the most.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Maria, a Honduran mother who has not been able to reunite with her two children, 7 and 11, who were separated from her at the border.
This comes as the Trump administration has announced a new asylum policy at the US-Mexico border, which instructs immigration officers to immediately reject asylum seekers who say they’re fleeing gang violence or domestic violence. It also instructs immigration officers to consider whether asylum seekers crossed the border outside legal ports of entry and to weigh that against their asylum claims. Border Patrol agents have been stationed on the Mexico side of the bridges at legal ports of entry up and down the border, prohibiting asylum seekers from entering legally, forcing many to cross at unauthorized entry points.
In our last minute of this broadcast, we’re joined by Renée Feltz, Democracy Now! correspondent, long reported on criminalization of immigrant families, and has a new piece out for The Nation and The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute that’s headlined “For Some Migrant Families, a Second Separation Awaits.” Give us an update on the these separated families. I mean, here, she says they are waiting for her fingerprints. Then, in other cases, we hear DNA.
RENÉE FELTZ: They may not be able to reunite with their uncle or their grandmother, who are clearly relatives. And if they do get a DNA test, they have to pay for that. They’re also concerned about fingerprints. There’s been a lot of collaboration between this agency taking care of children and ICE, and enforcement.
What I looked at are what are some of the next steps that these parents have to face, once they’re reunited. Laura has done a great job of trying to emphasize Central American voices who are refugees, in a refugee crisis, fleeing Central America. I think journalists can also look closely at how the Trump administration is clamping down on the rights of these people as they go through court to seek asylum.
Families come to the United States to seek asylum. This case that I reported on in my story for The Nation suggests that parents who get their asylum claim denied, which is very likely to happen with new limits that Sessions has implemented here, they may have to decide: Am I going to go back to the country that I fled with my child, or am I going to leave my child in the United States to face a separate asylum claim? They have additional opportunities that they could pursue. But these are parents whose children think they abandoned them. We’ve heard reports that the children can’t even remember what their parents look like. And now, once that parent is reunited, if they’re able to be reunited, they’re going to have to face a second separation?
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to continue to follow this next week. Thank you very much, Democracy Now!’s Renée Feltz. We’ll link to your piece out at The Nation.
That does it for this broadcast. Happy birthday to Carl Marxer!