Despite Looming Deadline, Court Filings Show Family Separation Crisis Hasn’t Ended

According to government statistics, of the estimated 2,500 families with children between the ages of 5 and 17 who were supposed to be reunited by 6 p.m. on July 26, about 1,012 of those families were reunited by the deadline. The government says as many as 914 parents won’t be able to be reunited with their children until later this week, due to either their criminal records or because they've already been deported without their children.

The government claims the deportations occurred with the parents' consent. However, court documents filed by the American Civil Liberties Union argue that some parents were coerced or deliberately deceived into signing paperwork they didn't understand and unknowingly relinquished their reunification rights.

The documents filed by the ACLU provide a detailed account of the chaos and confusion playing out at a number of US immigrant detention centers as officials fumble in their attempts to meet the court-ordered deadline.

Government attorneys have tried to argue that four days is enough time for detained parents and children to discuss and decide what their next steps will be, including if the children should stay with their parents.

Statistics provided by the government show that at least 900 parents were issued final removal orders, which means that while they are facing rushed deportation, they must decide if their child should be deported along with them or remain in the U.S. to pursue their own immigration case.

Detained Parents Claim They Signed Documents They Didn't Understand

Lawyers who spoke to detainees from parts of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras where indigenous languages are spoken, say that detainees were given forms for their cases in Spanish or English, languages they don't speak or understand. One Department of Homeland Security official said officers are required to read the form to an immigrant in the language they understand and certify that the procedure was followed, including naming the interpreter who was used.

However, lawyers have encountered cases where fathers signed away their right to reunification, but didn’t understand the implications because they don’t read or write in English or Spanish. Additionally, these father’s weren’t given the chance to ask questions or talk to their children about what they were signing. To make matters worse, the fathers also weren’t given copies of the forms they signed.

Regarding these allegations, officials from the Department of Homeland Security say that a notice of parents' rights is posted in both English and Spanish at each detention facility operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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