John Sandweg, who served as acting ICE Director under President Obama, tells Rolling Stone,“There’s a very high risk of permanent separation” for the families that were ripped apart. Migrant parents could easily lose legal custody, he says, in a Kafka-esque tangle of American bureaucracies.
To understand the plight of the families affected by Trump’s initiative – which Amnesty International has condemned as “nothing short of torture” – it’s critical to understand that once family units are broken apart, parents and children are in the hands of two separate bureaucracies. …Children are handed over to the Department of Health and Human Services, and are now considered unaccompanied minors. Some of the children have extended family in America who can provide a home for them. For the rest, HHS seeks foster care placements – anywhere in the U.S. that can accommodate them.
…Some desperate parents, Sandweg says, may have already been pressured into abandoning asylum claims and voluntarily accepting removal from the United States, in the mistaken belief that this would speed reunification with an infant child. But this is a false hope.
…It can take years for a child’s asylum case to wend its way before an immigration judge. If the child is now in the foster care system, he or she is a ward of whatever state HHS sent him or her to.
…In state court hearings, the deported parents are then punished for being out of country. “The parent has no way – legally or financially – to return to the United States to appear in state court proceedings where the guardianship of their child is being decided,” Sandweg says. Because the feds deported the parent, courts usually deem the child to have been abandoned, legally speaking. “Parental rights are then severed,” often permanently, says Sandweg. “Now, the parent has no legal authority to mandate return of their child.”
…Some of the children, Sandweg says, could eventually be put up for adoption. In the darkest of ironies, forcibly orphaned migrants – whom the president is desperate to deport – could in fact qualify for permanent residency, because the U.S. has a “special immigrant juvenile” classification designed for abandoned children. As Sandweg puts it, “Trump could be creating hundreds of future green card holders.”