Customs and Border Protection acknowledged Monday that the government is abandoning the administration’s zero-tolerance policy for migrants crossing the border illegally.
The Department of Homeland Security said it has reunited 522 children with their parents, but more than 2,000 kids are still in their care in detention centers across the country.
“A lot of shifting around of people who have been detained and that causes a lot of confusion,” says Pedro Rios, San Diego program director of the American Friends Service Committee’s US/Mexico Border Program, which advocates for immigrant rights.
A group of migrants that were separated from their children when the zero-tolerance policy was in effect are now in a shelter in El Paso, Texas, hearing that charges of illegal entry may be withdrawn.
Rios says he wants to know if those parents will be reunited with their children and when. “There are still a lot of children left, a lot of families yet to be reunited with small children,” Rios tells NBC 7.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) says it has taken steps toward reunification, including a phone line staffed by operators and an online detainee locator and an identification mechanism is now in place to ensure ongoing tracking.
ICE is also coordinating with foreign consulates to make sure travel documents are issued and they are coordinating with HHS to reunite parents with children before the parents are deported.
Rios says it’s too little, too late. “The obstacles begin to surmount once a parent has been removed from the country or once they’re being moved from detention center to detention center,” he says. “It’s highly unlikely for them to have the ease to pick up the phone and call and find out where their children are at.”
Rios says the announcement from ICE isn’t based on concerns over the welfare of families and children, but rather how to do it while staying within the law.