The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said late on Saturday it had a “well-coordinated” process in place – in the face of criticism from lawyers for parents and children who have said they have seen little evidence of an organized system.
A protester wipes her tears during a demonstration against the US immigration policy that separates parents from their children, outside the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego, California, US, June 23, 2018. /VCG Photo
A total of 522 children had already been reunited with parents, the agency added in a fact sheet published three days after Trump ended his policy of separating families on the US-Mexico border, after images of youngsters in cages triggered outrage at home and abroad.
“The United States government knows the location of all children in its custody and is working to reunite them with their families,” the DHS said.
The fact sheet said children are given the chance to speak with a “vetted parent, guardian or relative” within 24 hours of arriving at a facility run by Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – the agency that has custody of the children.
Guatemalan immigrants deported from the United States wait for their turn to be registered by migration authorities, upon their arrival at the Air Force base in Guatemala City, June 22, 2018. /VCG Photo
The new details came after more than two months of confusion about how detained migrant parents, who are shuttled from facility to facility run by different government agencies, would ever reunite with their children, who are sent to shelters and foster homes scattered across the country.
The fact sheet said the Trump administration has a process for how parents would be reunited with their children “for the purposes of removal,” or deportation.
Deportation proceedings could take months to complete, and the fact sheet did not say whether parents and children would be reunited in the intervening time.
DHS officials did not immediately respond to questions about the process explained in the fact sheet.