Hundreds of Families are Still Being Separated at the Border

New government statistics show 250 parents have been separated from children since a June court order. Separations of siblings and other relatives could account for hundreds more.

Eight months after a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to stop separating parents and children at the US-Mexico border, families are still being separated.

Newly released government data shows nearly 250 parents have been separated from their children since June 26. Meanwhile, a report released Thursday from the advocacy group Texas Civil Rights Project suggests that those separations might be dwarfed by the number of other relatives — siblings, aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins — who bring a child to the US without her parents and are then separated from her by immigration agents.

A June order issued by Judge Dana Sabraw of the Southern District of California bars the government from separating families in most circumstances — and required them to reunite families who had been separated. (The overwhelming majority of those families have been reunited, or the child has been placed with a relative in the US.)

Since then, the government claimed in a Wednesday night court filing, it’s separated 245 families that are excluded from that order. But advocates argue that some of the continued separations for often murky “law enforcement purposes” do violate the order to keep parents and children together.

Separations of families that aren’t simply parent-child, though, aren’t included in the court order — or counted in separation statistics at all. The Department of Homeland Security maintains that it’s required by law to treat any child entering the US without a parent or legal guardian as “unaccompanied” and send him or her to the custody of Health and Human Services.

The Texas Civil Rights Project report is the first data on family separations to come from outside the government. The group’s lawyers interviewed thousands of immigrants being prosecuted for immigration violations at one of the 18 federal courthouses along the border over six months. They found 38 parents who’d been separated from children — but six times as many siblings and other relatives who had. At that rate, according to the new official statistics, 245 parents have been separated from children — but that dramatically understates how many families have been separated, because so have 1,500 non-parents.

By Dara Lind for V O X

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