US-born children were among those separated from families under Trump and some are still not reunited

Some of the US-born children who were separated from their families have spent years in the foster care system

Abe Asher
Tuesday 11 April 2023 21:12 BST
Last surviving prosecutor at Nuremberg trials Ben Ferencz says Donald Trump's family separation policy is ‘crime against humanity’

Hundreds and possibly as many as 1,000 US-born children were separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border during the spring of 2018 as part of the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy on illegal border crossings.

While it was already well-established that the administration’s family separation policy separated thousands of migrant children from their parents, The New York Times reported on Tuesday that US-born children travelling with immigrant parents were also caught up in the policy that was widely criticised by human rights groups.

Of the US-born children taken away from their families, many were funneled into the foster care system and some still have not been reunited with their families some five years after the Trump administration made the policy official in April of 2018.

“We don’t even know where these parents are today, and whether or not they know where their children are,” Paige Chan, executive director of the nonprofit Together and Free, told the Times. “The US government is only beginning to account for the number of U.S. citizens put through this unimaginable trauma.”

The family separation policy was a flashpoint of Mr Trump’s highly controversial four years in office and ended by executive order in June shortly after a federal judge in California ordered the government to reunite the families with their children.

But the damage the policy did to lives of the thousands of people it impacted is still being felt. In some ways, the Times reported, US-born children separated from their families were at a bureaucratic disadvantage compared to their foreign-born peers.

Where foreign-born children were eventually transferred to shelters operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, where they were entered into databases and allowed to speak to their parents, US-born children were funneled into the state foster care system which lacked a central point of administration and had their cases handled differently depending on where they ended up.

State family courts, theoretically, had the power to reunite the US-born children with their parents, but in some cases their parents had been deported — leaving the children facing the possibility of living with relatives or staying in the foster care system until reaching adulthood.

Figuring out exactly where the US-born children separated from their parents and families are is difficult, the Times has reported, because government records are scattered and incomplete.

Many of the US-born children affected by the policy were born in the US before their parents returned to Central American countries. In some cases, their parents then attempted to re-enter the US to escape violence or economic hardship.

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