Update on Family Separations

Some 1,500 children remain separated from their parents and in government custody.  Only 63 percent of children whose cases have been officially been reviewed have been reunited with their parents.

The Federal Government has provided new figures concerning the migrant children separated from their parents at the border as part of the proceeding before Judge Dana Sabraw.  I have used these figures, along with my previous accounting, to develop estimates of the number of children reunited with their parents, and those not yet reunited for a variety of reasons. I start with the total of 4,954 separated children I estimated earlier including both children separated during the “zero-tolerance” period and those separated during the “pilot program.”  There are three official sources of information on reunifications.  The first is a “fact sheet” from DHS which reported that 538 children had been reunited with their parents “as part of the Zero Tolerance initiative.” Some number of these children may have been separated before zero tolerance, but we have no way of knowing how many.  The “Fact Sheet” also fails to mention the number of children whose cases were processed but who remain in government custody.  I will estimate that number below.

The other two sources of data on reunifications comes from the filings made by the government in the case of Ms. L.v. ICE before Judge Dana Sabraw.  On June 26th Judge Sabraw ordered that the government must reunite all separated children.  The government has since submitted two filings to the court reporting on its progress.  The first, filed July 12th, concerned the disposition of the supposed 103 children in custody who were under five years of age.  (This figure of 103 remains suspiciously low.)  Late this past Thursday, July 19th, the government reported on its progress with the older children in its custody.

The government could only identify and clear the parents of 57 of the youngest children.  The other 46 remain in government custody because it determined the child might be subject to abuse, the parents were in custody or had criminal records, the associated adult was not the child’s parent, or, in twelve cases, the parent(s) had already been deported.  The clearance rate was higher for the older children.  364 of them were reported to be reunited with parents, and in another 848 cases the parent(s) were identified and cleared, but the reunification had yet to take place.  However the government also identified another 908 children whose parent(s) were either declared ineligible or whose eligibility was still unresolved.

The one remaining piece of the puzzle concerns the number of children separated before zero tolerance began who were subsequently reunited with their parent(s).  If we assume that their cases were disposed of at the same rate as cases during zero-tolerance, we can estimate the number of reunited children from that earlier period.  Combining together the 57 reunited young children with their 364 older reunited peers, and counting the 848 children awaiting reunification, gives us a total of 1,269 children either reunited or awaiting reunification.  In comparison 46 young children and 229 older ones remain separated because their parents were not cleared.  If we add to that the 908 children who may also be ineligible, we get a total of 1,183 children whose cases have been reviewed without reunification,  Applying the same “clearance rate” to the period before zero tolerance gives us an estimate of 502 children from that period who remain ineligible for reunification.

The rate at which parents are declared ineligible should be a major source of concern.  Of the 3,492 separated children whose cases I estimate were resolved by July 19th, only 1,807, or just 52 percent, were reunited or awaiting reunification with their parents. If we rely solely on official reports, 1,045 children were ineligible or uncleared.  Even that more conservative figure results in a reunification rate of just 63 percent.