In light of reports of nearly 1,500 “lost” unaccompanied children crossing the southern border, immigrant advocates are refocusing the spotlight on the escalating stakes behind the cruel practice of separating families.
Though it is tempting to simplify and cast aspersions on the evident anti-immigrant motivations of the Trump administration, the feds did not actually lose the children.
Typically, when unaccompanied children arrive at the border, they are held until they can be placed with sponsors living in the United States via the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). And, as the New York Times reports, the HHS started checking in with the 7,635 children it helped to place last October through the end of the year. Of these children, they found that 6,075 remained with those sponsors; 28 ran away; 5 were deported; and 52 relocated to live with a non-sponsor.
The rest of the 1,475 children were unaccounted for, according to testimony before a Senate subcommittee last month. It is speculated that sponsors who are undocumented, rightfully fearing consequences like deportation, may be reluctant to report back to federal officials.
Here on Long Island, 151 unaccompanied children were placed with sponsors in Nassau County, and 211 were placed in Suffolk County, according to ORR figures.
The Trump administration’s mass deportation agenda has brought on alarming increases of family separation, prompting the American Civil Liberties Union to strike back with a lawsuit filed in March.
Doubling down, Attorney General Jeff Sessions callously proclaimed earlier this May the implementation of a zero-tolerance policy that will criminally prosecute anyone who crosses the border unauthorized, including if it means ripping apart children and their families. Speaking with NPR just weeks ago, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly openly admitted that the “name of the game is deterrence” regarding family separation.
A National Day of Action for Children will be held on June 1, which aims to highlight the worsening crisis of children and families being separated.