Originally published by The Hill
House Democrats on Tuesday demanded that the Trump administration provide its plan to reunify more than 500 undocumented children who remain separated from their parents as a result of the government’s zero-tolerance immigration policy.
The administration has failed to implement an adequate reunification plan, according to a letter signed by Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and 19 members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC).
“Since the Administration instituted and rescinded the zero-tolerance policy, which purposefully targeted and separated migrant children from their parents, we have yet to see the Administration present a cohesive, well-executed inter-agency plan or inter-governmental coordination with Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico to ensure that these children are reunited with their families,” the 20 House Democrats wrote in a letter addressed to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Hoyer and the CHC sent a similar letter in June calling for the administration to publish a plan to reunify more than 2,000 families separated as a result of Trump’s policy.
In Tuesday’s letter, Democrats panned the administration’s response to their June missive.
“In fact, [HHS] Deputy Secretary [Eric] Hargan’s response to our June 26 letter demonstrated that the Administration was ill-equipped to answer the basic, factual questions posed in our letter, which resulted in the failure of many of these families being reunified and more than 400 parents deported without their children,” the lawmakers wrote.
Sessions announced the zero-tolerance policy in April, and in subsequent months more than 2,500 children were separated from their parents or guardians, as the adults were detained for prosecution for illegally crossing the southwest border.
A federal judge in California ordered the government to reunify families separated through the policy by July 26.
Most families were reunited, but the government deemed about 100 parents or guardians ineligible for reunification due to prior criminal convictions, and had already deported about 400 parents without their children.
“It is the federal government’s responsibility and obligation to ensure that every child that was separated is reunited with their parent or close family member,” the House lawmakers wrote. “We, therefore, renew our request for a daily status update.”
CHC Chairwoman Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M) added in a separate statement that Nielsen guaranteed full reunifications in a July 25 visit with the caucus.
“On July 25, the DHS Secretary guaranteed CHC members that families would be reunified by the first court ordered deadline, yet weeks later disturbing reports have surfaced of a child dying after being held in a detention center and other children still languish in inexcusable conditions. This is unacceptable and a dereliction of duty,” said Lujan Grisham.