Nearly 120 days past federal judge’s deadline, separated migrant kids are still under U.S. custody

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 31: Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) called on Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to step down during a hearing with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-NH) (L) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill July 31, 2018 in Washington, DC. The committee questioned officials from the Boarder Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice about the separation of children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border at the government's efforts to reunify those families. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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The day before families all over the U.S. will gather around tables to celebrate Thanksgiving, children kidnapped from the arms of parents by the U.S. government continue to remain under U.S. custody, nearly 120 days past a federal judge’s reunification deadline. Of 25 kids eligible for reunification, tweeted MSNBC’s Jacob Soboroff, the parents of 18 have already been deported. 

Some kids may never see their parents again, because a court filing also revealed that officials have a separate group of 99 kids who have “deported parents who have chosen not to reunite,” Soboroff continues. Perhaps some parents felt their child deserved a chance here. Perhaps others were coerced into being deported, as reports have indicated. Look at this administration’s track record, there’s plenty of reason to believe it’s more of the latter.

One child separated from their family is one too many, yet the administration has a record number of migrant kids—14,000, according to officials—in U.S. custody, the vast majority of them minors who came to the U.S. alone. These kids could get released to sponsors, including relatives, but officials have been roadblocking this process, including arresting dozens of potential sponsors who have stepped forward.

“Right now, unaccompanied children are being held in detention facilities or living in tent cities due in part to potential sponsors’ fear of retribution from ICE for coming forward,” said Sen. Kamala Harris of California. “This is an unacceptable obstacle to getting these children into a safe home, and we must fix it.” Harris and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon have also introduced a bill to protect potential sponsors from immigration rest, and it could easily pass in a Democratic House next year.

What a Democratic House also means is a meaningful investigation into the administration’s barbaric “zero tolerance” policy and kidnapping of thousands of children, a crisis that will continue as long as children continue to remain separated. “The reckoning for one of Trump’s most disgraceful and unconscionable policies begins,” Daily Kos’s Kerry Eleveld tweeted. “Everyone who had a hand in the family separations should be held to account.”

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