SAN DIEGO (AP) – U.S. immigration authorities separated more than 1,500 children from their parents on the border with Mexico at the start of President Donald Trump's government, and the total since July 2017 exceeded 5,400, he said Thursday A civil rights group.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) explained that the government informed its lawyers that 1,556 minors were separated from their families between July 1, 2017 and June 26, 2018, when a federal judge San Diego ordered that children in government custody meet with their parents.
Finding affected children in that period can be complicated because the government did not have an adequate tracking system. Volunteers working with the ACLU are looking for some of them and their parents door to door in Guatemala and Honduras.RELATED
Of the total number of children away from their families in those 12 months, 207 were less than 5 years old, said Lee Gelernt, an ACLU lawyer, who filed a lawsuit to end this practice. Five were less than one year old, 26 had one, another 40 were two years old, 76 had already turned three and there were 60 more with four.
"It is surprising that 1,556 more families, including infants and young children, join the thousands more that were already separated by this inhuman and illegal policy," Gelernt added. "Families have suffered a lot and some may never recover."
The Justice Department declined to comment.
This count represents a milestone in the count of families that have been affected by Trump's criticized campaign against illegal immigration. The government reported that 2,814 separated children were in their custody on June 26, 2018 and almost all returned with their families.
The internal control agency of the Department of Health said in January that there could be thousands more cases since July 2017, which led district judge Dana Sabraw to give the government six months to identify them. The ACLU said it received the last report with 1,556 names one day before Friday's deadline.
The authorities separated another 1,090 minors since the judge ordered to suspend the practice in June 2018 except in specific circumstances such as the existence of threats to the safety of children or doubts about whether the adult with whom they are traveling is really its parent.
According to the ACLU, the authorities abused this prerogative by dividing families based on dubious accusations and minor transgressions with traffic offenses. The organization asked Sabraw to define in more detail the circumstances that should govern these cases, something that Washington opposed.
With the data revealed on Thursday, the number of children separated from their families since July 2017 amounts to 5,460.