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A government lawyer acknowledged Monday that the Trump administration will miss its first court-imposed deadline to reunite about 100 immigrant children under age 5 with their parents. Department of Justice attorney Sarah Fabian said during a court hearing that federal authorities reunited two families and expect to reunite an additional 59 by Tuesday’s deadline. She said the other cases are more complicated, including parents who have been deported or are in prison facing criminal charges, and would require more time to complete reunions. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, who ordered the administration to reunite families separated as part of President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, said he will hold another hearing Tuesday morning to get an update on the remaining cases. He said he was encouraged to see “real progress” in the complicated reunification process after a busy weekend when officials from multiple federal agencies tried to sync up parents and children who are spread across the country. STORY FROM LENDINGTREE Crush your mortgage interest with a 15 yr fixed “Tomorrow is the deadline. I do recognize that there are some groups of parents who are going to fall into a category where it’s impossible to reunite by tomorrow,” he said. “I am very encouraged by the progress. I’m optimistic.” Lee Gelernt, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who leads a lawsuit against the federal government, sounded more skeptical. When asked by the judge if he believed the government was in full compliance of the court order, Gelernt said there was much more work to be done. “Let me put it this way: I think the government in the last 48 hours has taken significant steps,” he said. “We just don’t know how much effort the government has made to find released parents. I don’t think there’s been full compliance.” U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, based in San Diego. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, based in San Diego. (Photo: U.S. District Court) The difficulty in reuniting the first 100 children shows the challenge that lies ahead as the Trump administration braces for another deadline in two weeks to reunite nearly 3,000 older children – up to age 17 – with their parents. The process is complicated because of all the different situations that emerged over the weekend. The government initially identified 102 children under age 5 who needed to be reunited but removed three children from that list because investigations into their cases revealed that those children came with adults who were not their parents, Fabian said. Twelve parents were found to be in federal and state custody on criminal charges, making a reunification impossible since the government can’t transfer minors to state and local prisons to protect the well-being of the child. Nine parents were deported, and the government established contact with only four of them, Fabian said. Four children had been scheduled to be released from government custody to relatives who weren’t their parents, leading the government to question whether to allow that process to be completed or to redirect the child back to a parent. Gelernt said he understood many of the hurdles but urged the judge to force the government to scrap its time-consuming investigation into every single case and start a 48-hour clock to reunify families that remain separated by Tuesday. Sabraw said he would decide that during Tuesday’s hearing. Fabian said one of the silver linings of the busy weekend is that her office worked closely with its challengers at the ACLU to share information on each child’s case, to ensure that representatives from immigration advocacy groups and volunteer organizations could be present during each reunification. Gelernt said they’re doing that to help the parents, who are often released from custody with no money and nowhere to go. Fabian said that coordination has led to a more formalized process between government agencies and with the immigrants’ lawyers that should make reunifications go more smoothly in the coming weeks. “I think this process over the weekend helped us see what information, and in what form, is the most useful to share,” she said. “I’d like to make that as efficient a process as possible.” -

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Unaccompanied minors and unintended consequences

By Alex Nowrasteh, contributor

Government policies have unintended consequences that can play out far into the future. There is perhaps no better example of this than the complex legal changes that have impacted the current surge of unaccompanied immigrant children (UAC) coming across the border. American policies crafted in the 1990s likely unintentionally had a role in incentivizing some of the migration and the smugglers that carry many of the migrants.

Two unrelated border policies have hobbled the government’s response to the surge in UAC. The first policy was about how the government should humanely treat apprehended UAC. Children used to be treated in the same way as adults were. That practice was challenged by a 15-year-old Salvadorian girl named Jenny Lisette Flores in a 1985 lawsuit that was finally settled in 1997.

Under the Flores settlement, as it became known, UAC were exempted from “expedited removal” — a newly created process in 1996 that allowed for removal of non-asylum seekers without a court hearing. Instead, it required the government to “ensure the prompt release of children” and place them “in the least restrictive setting appropriate” pending a court hearing. Parents, legal guardians and adult relatives of the UAC were the preferred appropriate settings designated by the government.

In 2002 and again in 2008, this legal framework was codified and clarified with very little resistance in Congress. At that time, few unaccompanied children were crossing illegally despite these relatively lenient policies. In 2008, Congress actually liberalized the Flores agreement considerably by making releases much less discretionary and moving temporary detention to Health and Human Services prior to the children being settled with their families or in foster care.

When it came up for a vote, 183 Republicans voted for the 2008 law. In fact, even Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the tough chairman of the House Judiciary Committee who just held a hearing entitled “An Administration-Made Crisis: The Border Surge of Unaccompanied Alien Minors,” voted for the current policy regime.

The 2008 bill was crafted by both the Republican and Democratic Judiciary Committee staff and was so uncontroversial that the final version passed by unanimous consent in the Senate and a voice vote in the House. It was then signed into law by a Republican president.

The second border policy unintentionally subsidized human smugglers who bring the UAC into the United States. This policy, too, can trace its roots back to the 1990s. Border enforcement was built up heavily during the 1990s and early 2000s — increasing the number of border patrol by about nine-fold and the number of hours spent patrolling the border up over 400 percent.

As a result of this increase in enforcement, many unlawful migrants began to use human smugglers instead of attempting to cross the border themselves. As a result, the cost of hiring a smuggler has steadily risen, from about $700 in 1993 to between $3,000 and $7,500 today. The migrants who pay such high prices are those who very much want to come to the United States — like the unlawful immigrant parents who want to send their children from their violent home countries to be with them in the United States.

This intensive border enforcement policy has been magnified under the Obama administration. The administration has increased prosecution for illegal entry so much so that in 2012, 86 percent of all unauthorized immigrants apprehended at the border were charged with crimes, formally removed, or repatriated into remote areas of their home country. By comparison, only 23 percent faced such severe consequences in 2005.

Early evidence has shown this strategy of removing unlawful immigrants with severe consequences effectively deters some unlawful immigration. Recidivism — the likelihood of repeat attempts to enter the United States — has fallen under this new approach. But the side effect is that more unlawful immigrants are using smugglers, who have turned to transporting minors fleeing violence and seeking family reunification in the United States.

Since 2009, when the government first began to track it, the percentage of unaccompanied minors out of total border apprehensions has risen from less than 4 percent to almost 10 percent. “As the chances of getting an adult across have fallen because of tighter controls,” write the editors of The Economist, “the odds of getting a child in (for the same $3,000 payment) have stayed the same.” Our immigration enforcement policy on the border has made human smuggling more pervasive.

There are many factors causing the current surge of UAC. Violence and poverty in their home countries, family reunification in the United States, fewer restrictive immigration laws in Mexico that allow passage for Central American immigrants, and changes in U.S. treatment of immigrants all play a role. What is also clear is that some American politicians who blame American law for the surge actually voted for that American law in the past. Thus, the law of unintended consequences combined with partisan politics has created a profoundly disturbing crisis at the border.

Nowrasteh is an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.

Source:The Hill

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