Lawyers for undocumented children fighting to reunite families
NEW YORK (FOX 5 NY) - Last summer, more than 2,500 children were separated from their parents by immigration authorities at the U.S.-Mexico border. Over 300 of those children ended up in New York City at government-contracted shelters like the Cayuga Centers.
"Up to 20 percent of the 300 children that have been separated are under six years old, so some of these children can't even speak," said Anthony Enriquez, Director of the Unaccompanied Minors Program for Catholic Charities Community Services.
A year after their separation, over 100 children have been reunited with their parents and remaining in federal custody, in shelters or temporarily placed with a foster family.
"The number hasn't decreased, the number's at 100 right now because over 200 additional children have already been released, whether it's to a family member that was not the parent that they were separated from or whether it was to return to their country of origin because their parent was separately deported," Enriquez said
In June 2018, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to end his "zero-tolerance" policy of separating children from their parents. A federal judge ordered the Trump administration to reunite children under five with their parents within 14 days, and the older children within 30 days.
"It's really the refusal of the government to comply with the court's order that is holding up and delaying these cases," Enriquez said.
According to Enriquez, the government is making it impossible for attorneys to get information on the parents' whereabouts in order to move their cases forward.
"The children that I represent almost uniformly say ‘I can't decide what to do on my case until I know that my Mom is safe, until I know my dad is alright and I need to know, is she going to stay and file an asylum case here in the United States, or is she going to return to our country of origin where we fled from?'" Enriquez said. "Unfortunately the government refuses to share that information with me when I ask of them, they say ‘Well, you're not representing the parent, you're only representing the child and because of privacy laws, I can't share any of this information with you.'"