Democratic senators unveiled a new family reunification bill on Tuesday that seeks to “immediately” reunite 2,600 immigrant children with their parents after they were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance family separation practice.
The Reunite Every Unaccompanied Newborn Infant, Toddler and Other Children Expeditiously (REUNITE) bill, introduced by Democratic Senators Kamala Harris, of California, Jeff Merkley, of Oregon, and Catherine Cortez Masto, of Nevada, aims to see family reunification expedited and calls for the establishment of a “permanent system” to ensure the protection of detained immigrants with children.
The Trump administration is currently racing to meet a July 26 court-ordered deadline to reunify children with their parents.
However, the three senators said government inactivity was to blame for the administration’s failure to reunite thousands of children with their parents immediately after the widely condemned family separation practice was rescinded in June.
Judge Temporarily Halts Deportations of Parents Separated from Children
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said he’s become “exasperated” by the Trump administration’s slow work to reunify more than 2,600 children separated from their parents, and he ordered the government to halt all deportations of parents for at least a week.
Sabraw scolded the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for taking so long to reunite children in its care with their parents held in separate government facilities. The judge responded to a court filing by Chris Meekins, a senior HHS official who wrote that the judge’s order requiring accelerated reunifications was leading to “increased risks to child welfare.”
The judge tore into Meekins during a court hearing in San Diego, saying his claims were “deeply troubling” and “completely unhelpful” to what had been a mutual spirit of good faith between the two sides. The judge said Meekins’ filing appeared to represent an effort to deflect blame for any damage caused to children as a result of the government’s family separation policy. He also made clear Monday that HHS is a defendant in the case, and the judge ordered the agency to look out for the welfare of children by reuniting them with their parents.